On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Mercer County, Docket No. FV-11-0124-08.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Cuff and Fuentes.
Defendant Jairo Gimenez appeals from a final restraining order issued by the Family Part pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35. Specifically, the court found that defendant committed the predicate offense of criminal trespass, N.J.S.A. 2C:18-3b.
After reviewing the record developed before the trial court, and in light of prevailing legal standards, we reverse.
Plaintiff is a twenty-year-old college student who attends Rider University. Defendant is twenty-one years old. Prior to the incident that gave rise to this complaint, the parties had a year-long dating relationship which the trial court properly characterized as "tumultuous." Plaintiff complained that defendant was prone to emotional outbursts and that he was jealous and controlling. Further, plaintiff's father disapproved of defendant, adding additional strain on the parties' relationship.
On February 18, 2007, plaintiff's father found defendant's car parked near plaintiff's dormitory building. The father then found defendant in plaintiff's room. The next day, plaintiff requested that the University issue a "Persona Non Grata" (PNG) letter to defendant, advising him that he was not permitted on campus. According to plaintiff, the University issued such an order on February 19, 2007. Defendant admits that he was aware of this restriction. The appellate record does not include a copy of this document. We assume, however, that the University has the legal authority to enforce such a restriction.
It seems clear to us, however, that plaintiff requested the University to issue the PNG in large part to appease her father's concerns, as opposed to out of actual fear for her safety. The following testimony illustrates the point:
[PLAINTIFF]: [T]he reason why I got the persona non grata was because people prop doors in my dorm room -- in my dorm area, my living area. Okay? And all of a sudden [defendant] shows up. He just shows up. He opens my door in my room and just walks right in. Like, I was flipping out because you know you're not supposed to be here. My dad told you not to come to the school and you tell me this?
[THE COURT]: And [defendant] was aware on that date that he shouldn't be there?
[PLAINTIFF]: No. My father told him.
That's why on February 19th I got the persona non grata so that he would be ...