On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Gloucester County, FJ-08-1747-06.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 23, 2008
Before Judges Collester and Graves.
Juvenile defendant A.M.L., born on September 11, 1993, appeals from an adjudication of juvenile delinquency in the Family Part. We affirm.
Juvenile delinquency complaints charged that in November 2005, A.M.L. committed the following sexual offenses upon A.P., while both were twelve years old: (1) sexual intercourse, constituting aggravated sexual assault, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2a(4); (2) sexual assault upon A.P., contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2c(1); (3) aggravated criminal sexual contact, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:14-3(a), by forcing A.P. to touch his penis while holding a knife to her throat; (4) criminal sexual contact upon A.P., contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:14-3(b); (5) possession of a knife for an unlawful purpose, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(d); and (6) lewdness, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:14-4(a). After a four-day trial, the judge rendered a lengthy oral decision in which she concluded that the victim A.P. was a credible witness and that there was "no reasonable doubt" as to A.M.L.'s guilt. We affirm.
In November 2005, the victim, A.P., lived with her mother, W.B. She had visitation with her father, J.P., every other weekend. Since J.P. was involved in a relationship with S.M., A.M.L.'s mother, they would regularly go to S.M.'s residence. At such times, A.P. would visit with A.M.L. and his sister during the day and when she and her father slept over at S.M.'s house. As of November 2005 A.P. was about 5'2" tall and weighed about 130 pounds while A.M.L. was 4'10" or 11" tall and weighed about seventy-five pounds. A.P. testified that when she was eleven, A.M.L. would try to touch her on her breasts or vaginal area and ask her to touch his penis. The first incident occurred when they were playing video games in A.M.L.'s room.
A.M.L. grabbed A.P.'s hand and forced her to touch his erection on top of his pants. A.P. pulled her hand away and left the room. She did not tell anyone about the incident.
A month or so later she and A.M.L. were again playing video games in his bedroom. A.M.L. left the room for a short time and upon his return he sat down and started "playing" with A.P. She felt a sharp point touching her neck and later saw that it was a knife. A.M.L. grabbed her hand and rubbed it up and down on his erection over his clothing. As he loosened his grip, A.P. was able to pull away and run downstairs. She testified that there were other incidents when A.M.L. touched her breasts and rubbed her on her "private part" above her clothing.
A.P. said that matters escalated to an incident in November 2005, while she was sleeping on a blow-up mattress in the bedroom of A.M.L.'s sister, but awoke to find that A.M.L. was pulling her by her arms. When she complained, he put his hand over her mouth, held her arms together with his other hand, and dragged her into the spare bedroom where he ripped off her pants and underwear. A.P. said that A.M.L. then "tried to force sexual intercourse" with her, but "only succeeded in a couple of times." She eventually kicked him in the groin area, ran into the sister's room, and leaned against the door so that A.M.L. could not get in. She said that A.M.L. banged on the door for five or ten minutes while asking her, "don't tell anyone." After a period of silence, she opened the door and saw that A.M.L. was sleeping. She got dressed, went downstairs, and stayed up the remainder of the night.
A.P. testified that the following morning she tried to tell her father about the incident, but said "I don't really think he believed me or just paid attention to what I was saying." A.P. later told her best friend that she had been raped once by A.M.L. and sexually abused other times. Although A.P. did not tell her mother about the sexual incidents at A.M.L.'s home, she did tell her mother that she did not want to go with her father to S.M.'s house with A.M.L. and said once she was "praying and hoping that her father doesn't spend the night there."
A.P.'s mother testified about changes in her daughter's behavior including cutting herself with sharp objects until she bled. Before she started school in September 2005, A.P. told her that A.M.L. touched her in her private area and she was afraid to go to sleep at his house. W.B. said she believed her daughter and told A.P.'s father what A.P. had said, asking him to find out what was going on. Later in April 2006, W.B. found her daughter's diary and read that she had been raped by A.M.L. and threatened with a knife. She confronted A.P. who told her that A.M.L. had sexually touched her and threatened her with a knife on many occasions. W.B. then notified the police.
Detective Stacey Lick of the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office interviewed A.P. on May 10, 2006. A.P. said she told her father she had been sexually assaulted about a week after it happened, but he had not believed her. She also told Detective Lick that the incident when A.M.L. threatened her with a knife was after she was sexually penetrated. Detective Lick further testified that after A.M.L. was brought to the prosecutor's ...