On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Somerset County, Indictment No. 08-01-00060.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 2, 2009
Before Judges Carchman and Simonelli.
The State appeals from the August 28, 2008 Law Division order admitting defendant Renee Marlene Jones into the Somerset County Pretrial Intervention Program (PTI) over the county prosecutor's objection. We affirm.
The following facts are summarized from the record. Defendant and her boyfriend had an altercation in her home, during which she stabbed him with a kitchen knife, inflicting a three to five millimeter wound requiring no stitches. Defendant also allegedly struck the boyfriend, causing injuries consistent with that allegation. Defendant was arrested and charged with third-degree aggravated assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(2) (count one), and third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4d (count two).
Defendant claimed that she acted in self-defense. She said that her boyfriend, who was in a jealous rage, was the aggressor. He allegedly repeatedly assaulted her, refused to leave her home despite her numerous demands, prevented her from calling the police, and threatened to burn down her house. She had injuries consistent with her assault claim. She claimed that she used the knife to scare her boyfriend into leaving her home, but that she did not know until advised by the police that she had stabbed him.
Defendant and her boyfriend filed domestic violence complaints. After a hearing, a Family Part judge found both parties guilty of acts of domestic violence and issued respective final restraining orders.
On January 11, 2008, defendant filed a pro se PTI application. On January 30, 2008, a grand jury indicted her on counts one and two. On February 4, 2008, the prosecutor offered defendant a plea agreement, which required her to plead guilty to both charges in exchange for probation with a 180-day term of incarceration in the Somerset County jail and fifty hours of community service.
Defendant declined the plea offer. Thereafter, she submitted information supporting her PTI admission. That information indicated that defendant had no prior criminal history, was highly educated and was gainfully employed in a responsible position with a major international corporation. Defendant also submitted the transcript of the domestic violence hearing.
On March 11, 2008, the prosecutor denied defendant's PTI admission, but provided no detailed statement of reasons at the time, as required by N.J.S.A. 2C:43-12f and R. 3:28(a)(3). See also State v. Caliguiri, 158 N.J. 28, 37 (1999). Defendant then submitted a letter from her treating therapist confirming her involvement in therapy.
The prosecutor admits that he consented to defendant's late filing of a second PTI application "in a good faith effort to review the defendant's qualifications for PTI and/or to resolve the matter by way of plea negotiations." The prosecutor met with defense counsel to discuss defendant's PTI admission. At the time of the meeting, the prosecutor knew that the victim did not want to testify at trial. The prosecutor also knew of defendant's self-defense claim and of the likely suppression of blood evidence found in her home and her statements to the police. He also had the transcript of the domestic violence hearing.*fn1
On April 22, 2008, the Criminal Division Manager recommended defendant's PTI admission conditioned on the payment of restitution to the victim and twenty-five hours of community service. Thus, by letter to defense counsel,*fn2 the prosecutor advised as follows, in relevant part:
This correspondence shall confirm our recent oral discussions regarding your client's desire for pre-trial diversion under ...