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State v. Wang

January 20, 2009

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
QINGPEI WANG, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Morris County, Municipal Appeal No. 06-111.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued December 17, 2008

Before Judges Parrillo, Lihotz and Messano.

Defendant Qingpei Wang appeals from the Law Division's judgment of conviction following the de novo appeal from her conviction for prostitution, N.J.S.A. 2C:34-1(b)(1), in the Mountain Lakes municipal court. On appeal, defendant argues the following:

POINT I

THE ADMISSION OF TESTIMONY REGARDING SPECIFIC ACTS OF CONDUCT AND THE COURT'S RELIANCE ON THAT TESTIMONY TAINTED THE DEFENDANT'S TRIAL AND PRODUCED AN UNJUST RESULT.

A. THE PROSECUTOR IMPROPERLY QUESTIONED WITNESSES REGARDING PREJUDICIAL SPECIFIC INSTANCES OF CONDUCT IN ORDER TO ATTACK THEIR CREDIBILITY.

POINT II

EVIDENCE PRODUCED AT TRIAL DID NOT SUPPORT THE IDENTIFICATION OF THE DEFENDANT AS THE PERPETRATOR OF THE OFFENSE.

POINT III

THIS COURT SHOULD REVIEW THE FACTUAL DETERMINATIONS BELOW AND REVERSE THE DECISION OR REMAND TO ANOTHER MUNICIPAL COURT.

POINT IV

DEFENDANT CANNOT BE CONVICTED OF AN OFFENSE WHERE THE STATE DID NOT PROVE THE ELEMENTS OF THE OFFENSE CHARGED.

We have considered these arguments in light of the record and applicable legal standards. We reverse and remand the matter for a new trial.

I.

We recap the testimony adduced at defendant's municipal court trial. The State's sole witness was Detective Shawn Bennett of the Mountain Lakes Police Department. On July 11, 2006, at about four o'clock in the afternoon, responding to complaints of prostitution, Bennett arrived at the premises of the Asian Therapy Center, a massage parlor on Route 46 West. He was in plainclothes and rang the doorbell to Suite B-10. An Asian woman, who Bennett subsequently identified in court as defendant, answered the door. Bennett asked for a massage and defendant escorted him down the hallway into a room, telling him to undress. When defendant saw Bennett still had his underwear on, she told him to take them off.

Bennett lay down on the massage table on his stomach and defendant proceeded to massage his back, shoulders and legs; he turned over, and defendant then massaged his head, chest and legs. Bennett claimed defendant "continuously . . . reached under" a white bath towel placed across the genital area, "coming in contact with [his] genitals." Defendant asked Bennett if it was "okay" to touch him there and, when Bennett gave a hand gesture showing consent, defendant grabbed his penis "underneath the towel and began to manipulate it." When defendant applied baby oil to her hands and continued to manipulate Bennett's penis, he stopped her by saying "no, thank you, it's okay." Defendant then covered up Bennett with the towel and told him that he was done. She told him that the price was sixty dollars, and Bennett gave her that, plus a twenty dollar gratuity, which the detective testified was "normal at . . . a legitimate massage parlor." Bennett left without arresting defendant or asking her name.

On August 3, Bennett returned to the Therapy Center to serve defendant with "a warrant." He still did not know her name. When Bennett saw defendant was not there, he spoke to two other Asian women, both of whom "spoke very little English." Bennett obtained a Nevada driver's license with defendant's photo on it, made a copy of the license, ...


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