On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Indictment No. 06-04-1254.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted December 10, 2008
Before Judges Parrillo and Lihotz.
Defendant Yakisha Walker appeals from a December 18, 2006 order denying her appeal of the prosecutor's rejection of her application for Pretrial Intervention (PTI). Rule 3:28(g). Defendant entered a guilty plea to fourth-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, a knife, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5(d), and the State agreed to drop the remaining two charges. After the court denied defendant's attempt to withdraw her guilty plea, the judge sentenced her to a two-year term of probation.
The sole issue presented for review on appeal is whether:
THE PROSECUTOR'S REJECTION OF DEFENDANT'S ADMISSION INTO PTI IS AN ARBITRARY, PATENT, AND GROSS ABUSE OF DISCRETION WHICH MUST BE CORRECTED BY THIS COURT.
On July 19, 2006, Newark Police Officers Sarno and O'Connor responded to a report of a domestic violence dispute in progress at 354 South 10th Street. Upon investigation, the police learned there was no domestic violence incident. Antoine Walter had called the police to remove people sitting on his front steps. Walter believed the police would respond more quickly if he sought help for domestic violence. Walter was arrested for making a false report.
As Walter was being escorted by police, defendant, Walter's sister, came down the steps from their second floor apartment, and screamed at the officers to release Walter. Defendant had her arm extended and held an eight inch boning knife in her hand. Officer Sarno believed defendant was about to stab him as she came running, cursing, and screaming at him while wielding the knife. When Officer Sarno began to draw his weapon, defendant dropped the knife. She was arrested and taken into custody.
Defendant applied for admission to the PTI program. On August 17, 2006, a PTI investigator recommended defendant's application be denied. On November 13, 2006, the Essex County's Prosecutor's Office rejected defendant's PTI application, finding insufficient compelling reasons for deferment. Specifically, the State determined the presumption against PTI admission resulted because the current and past offenses committed by defendant were crimes involving violence or the threat of violence. N.J.S.A. 2C:43-12(e)(1) and Guideline 3(i) of Rule 3:28.
The State also relied upon what it termed defendant's demonstrated "serious pattern of anti-social behavior." N.J.S.A. 2C:43-12(e) (5) and (12). As a juvenile, defendant was arrested for possession of a weapon, for which she received a deferred disposition; for possession of narcotics, for which she was placed on probation for one year; and simple assault. Other juvenile charges were dismissed. See State v. Brooks, 175 N.J. 215, 219 (2002). As an adult, defendant was arrested for disorderly conduct (fighting), for which an active bench warrant was issued. This present charge was defendant's first indictable offense. Based on defendant's criminal history, the prosecutor determined defendant was not deterred in the past. After heavily weighing the violent and unprovoked nature of the present offense and, specifically noting defendant's conduct could have resulted in serious or deadly consequences for the officer and herself, the prosecutor concluded defendant was not an appropriate candidate for rehabilitation. He rejected defendant's PTI application.
Defendant appealed the prosecutor's denial of her PTI request. During argument on the PTI appeal, held on December 18, 2006, defendant insisted the State's factual presentation of events was exaggerated. She suggested she was cooking and inadvertently rushed from her apartment with the knife still in hand to see what was happening to her brother. She explained she did not intend to stab the police officer and no one was injured. She also insisted her last arrest occurred eight years ...