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In re Seizure of Weapons Belonging to Paradise

June 23, 2008


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Bergen County, Docket No. FO-02-263-06.

Per curiam.



Argued January 8, 2008

Before Judges Coburn, Fuentes and Chambers.

Defendant Dominick Paradise appeals from the order of the Chancery Division granting the State's application pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:25-21 for the forfeiture of certain firearms and related ammunition owned by defendant. Specifically, the court ordered the forfeiture of: (1) a Smith and Wesson revolver, serial number 438X2; (2) a Sig Sauer pistol, serial number M537120; (3) one loaded magazine; (4) a box of ammunition; and (5) defendant's firearms purchaser identification card, number 458464B.

Defendant now argues that the forfeiture order should be vacated because the trial court's decision was not supported by competent evidence, and because he presented sufficient proofs establishing his competency to own firearms. After reviewing the record, we reject these arguments and affirm substantially for the reasons expressed by Judge Jerejian in his oral opinion delivered from the bench on June 27, 2006. We summarize the salient facts from the record developed before the trial court during the eight days of hearings.

Defendant served as a police officer with the Township of North Bergen Police Department from 1998 until September 2001, when he retired due to job-related injuries. He was married to Kim Paradise; the couple had two children. During the marriage, Mrs. Paradise filed three complaints alleging that her husband had committed acts of domestic violence against her.

The first incident occurred on January 4, 2005. According to Mrs. Paradise, she and defendant had a verbal dispute concerning the care of their children. This argument escalated to the point of requiring police intervention. By the conclusion of this incident, Mrs. Paradise secured a temporary restraining order (TRO) against defendant after he had begun screaming in the street in front of her house, suggesting that she was on drugs. No final restraints were ever issued and the case was ultimately dismissed.

Kim Paradise applied for the second restraining order in March 2005. A TRO was issued, but again did not turn into a permanent order. In this instance, defendant sent an e-mail to one of Mrs. Paradise's friends, threatening to return to the marital residence, in violation of a previously issued civil restraining order. According to Mrs. Paradise, defendant wanted to retrieve his weapons from the home. The complaint did not allege that defendant made any physical threats against either Mrs. Paradise or a man whom she was seeing at the time. Defendant's weapons were seized, however, as part of the relief contained in the TRO.

The Judge hearing the domestic violence case ordered defendant to submit to a psychological evaluation. After the evaluation was completed on May 17, 2005, the court issued an order dismissing the matter and returning defendant's weapons.

The third domestic violence complaint resulting in a TRO occurred in August 2005. Pursuant to a child custody agreement, Mrs. Paradise was the residential parent, and defendant retained the right to parenting time on Wednesdays from 4:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., and every other weekend.

By mutual agreement, the Wednesday August 24, 2005 parenting time was changed to Thursday, August 25. Defendant allegedly told his former wife that he would not return the children to the marital residence at the end of his parenting time, requiring Mrs. Paradise to get them herself. Because this deviated from the agreed upon practices, Mrs. Paradise sent defendant a complaining e-mail in which she asserted that his behavior was tantamount to "parental kidnapping."

On Thursday, August 25, Mrs. Paradise arrived home at approximately 4:00 p.m. Defendant was waiting outside the residence, having come to pick up the children for his parenting time. The children were not home. After attending to some household chores, Mrs. Paradise left, intending to pick up the girls and bring them back to her house so defendant could take them for his parenting time. As she was leaving the house, Mrs. Paradise rolled down her car window and asked defendant whether he planned to return the children to ...

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