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State ex rel M.R.

November 10, 2008

STATE OF NEW JERSEY IN THE INTEREST OF M.R.


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Warren County, Docket No. FJ-21-475-06.

Per curiam.

RECORD IMPOUNDED

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted: September 10, 2008

Before Judges Cuff and C.L. Miniman.

M.R., a juvenile, appeals from an adjudication of delinquency on January 23, 2007, following a bench trial for acts that, if committed by an adult, would constitute third-degree terroristic threats in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3(a). The Family Part judge found beyond a reasonable doubt that the juvenile made terroristic threats and dismissed the second count of the juvenile complaint alleging harassment in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4(a) on the State's motion.

On March 6, 2007, the juvenile pled guilty to two additional charges of harassment in exchange for the State's recommendation of concurrent dispositions. The judge imposed probation on the juvenile for one year on all three adjudications and ordered him to spend fifteen days in the Warren Acres Juvenile Facility, with twelve days suspended; perform forty-five hours of community service; send letters of apology; and pay all applicable fines and penalties.

On the evening of May 17, 2007, the juvenile made multiple telephone calls to a classmate, fourteen-year-old M.M., during which the juvenile made sexual remarks about their teacher, J.F., and said that he would put a bomb in the middle school to destroy it because the juvenile hated everyone, especially J.F. M.M. believed what the juvenile said, believed that he was going to be blown up, and as a result, M.M. was afraid. Although M.M. was scared and nervous, he did not relate the remarks to his mother or anyone else until he arrived at school the next day. M.M. then told J.F., the first teacher he saw, about the threats and she said, "Oh, my God." She reported the threats to the principal and the police were notified. M.M. did not see the juvenile at school that day.

M.M.'s mother testified that the juvenile made several telephone calls to her home that evening and that the calls made M.M. stressed, angry, and upset. She heard M.M. continually scream into the phone telling the juvenile not to call back, not to say that stuff, "you're disgusting," and then hang up only to have the telephone ring again, whereupon M.M. would repeat his screaming statements. M.M.'s mother testified that she had never seen her son so upset and that he is not easily upset.

At the close of the State's case, the juvenile moved for a judgment of acquittal pursuant to State v. Reyes, 50 N.J. 454 (1967), claiming that the evidence was insufficient to prove each element of a terroristic threat beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge denied the motion and the juvenile testified in his own behalf.

The juvenile stated that he did not recall making any comments about blowing up the middle school. He claimed that he made only one telephone call. He made that call because he was trying to get M.M. to tell him what J.F. was saying about the juvenile behind his back, because "there was this whole thing going on between" J.F. and the juvenile. He admitted that "a threat to blow up the school . . . could make someone afraid." Then, he denied making any such threat contrary to his initial testimony that he could not recall.

At the conclusion of the evidence, the judge carefully explained her findings respecting the credibility of the three witnesses, ultimately concluding that the State's witnesses were both highly credible and that the juvenile was not. She found that the State had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the juvenile made multiple calls to M.M., he threatened to place a bomb in the school, the threat was made with reckless disregard to causing M.M. terror, and M.M. was terrorized as a result. Thus, she concluded that the juvenile was guilty as charged of making terroristic threats. The State then moved to have the harassment charge dismissed. The judge inquired if it was a lesser-included offense, which the prosecutor acknowledged, and the judge dismissed that charge. This appeal followed.

The juvenile raises the following issues for our consideration:

I. THE ADJUDICATION OF DELINQUENCY FOR TERRORISTIC THREATS MUST BE REVERSED BECAUSE THE TRIAL COURT FAILED TO CONSIDER THE LESSER[-]INCLUDED OFFENSE OF HARRASSMENT ON THE ...


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