On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Atlantic County, Indictment No. 05-12-2753.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 8, 2010
Before Judges Reisner, Yannotti and Chambers.
Defendant Delores Randall was convicted by a jury of fourth degree obstructing the administration of law, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-1. Her sentence included three years probation and 500 hours of community service. Defendant appeals this conviction and sentence and also contends that the trial court erred in denying her admission into the Atlantic County pretrial intervention program (PTI).
We recognize that the Prosecutor's Office erred in attempting to make a guilty plea a condition of defendant's admission into the program. Nonetheless, the other reasons given by the prosecutor to explain the denial of defendant's admission into PTI are sufficient to justify that decision. We find no merit in the other issues raised by defendant and affirm her conviction and sentence.
Defendant's conviction arises out of the following events. In the early morning hours of September 25, 2005, defendant was driving home on the Atlantic City Expressway and talking to her husband on her cell phone. Roger Nicholson, a State Trooper, observed her vehicle drifting across lanes. The Trooper stopped her vehicle, and when speaking to defendant, he observed signs suggesting that she might be intoxicated, including the odor of an alcoholic beverage and fumbling with paperwork. He contends that defendant failed the field sobriety tests he administered, although defendant thought she had passed them.
The Trooper placed defendant under arrest and handcuffed her. At that point, defendant became defiant and belligerent and started to scream. She refused to get into the Trooper's vehicle. By her own testimony she went into a fetal position, and was banging against the police vehicle, yelling and screaming. Backup officers arrived, and defendant was eventually subdued with mace. Much of these events were caught on the Trooper's videotape. Defendant, who testified at her trial, explained that she was "creeped out" by the Trooper, and that she is "scared of police officers" because her "brother died at the hands of a police officer." The Trooper testified that defendant kicked him in the groin, but defendant denied doing so.
As a result of these events, defendant was charged with fourth degree obstructing the administration of law, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-1 and fourth degree aggravated assault on a police officer, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(5). Defendant pled not guilty.
Defendant requested diversion into PTI. The criminal case management officer recommended PTI for defendant. However, the assistant prosecutor responded by letter dated December 4, 2006, that "[i]n view of the assaultive nature of the offense, I am not enthusiastic about diversion" but indicated that she would agree to PTI if defendant entered an unconditional plea of guilty. Defendant refused to plead guilty.
By letter dated March 5, 2007, the prosecutor denied defendant's admission into PTI, writing that because defendant would not agree to a guilty plea "[t]herefore this office now submits a letter of rejection." The letter then went on to set forth various reasons why PTI was rejected, including defendant's "combative" behavior with the Trooper, the fact that she repeatedly kicked the Trooper and screamed profanities and continued to act in a violent manner at the station, and that PTI was opposed by the Trooper who characterized defendant's conduct as "extremely violent." The letter also noted that "defendant claims that she was passive and non-combative" which "varies greatly" from the Trooper's version of events and was contrary to events depicted in the videotape. The letter goes on to state that "PTI is an inappropriate forum for resolution of such widely divergent factual situations." Defendant's motion to compel admission into PTI was denied by the trial court.
At trial, the jury acquitted defendant of the charge of aggravated assault upon a police officer, but convicted her of obstructing the administration of law. Defendant's motion for a new trial was denied. The trial court sentenced defendant to three years probation, 500 hours of community service, and imposed the requisite assessments and fees. The trial court also required that she attend and complete an anger management course and maintain full-time employment.
On appeal, defendant raises the following issues:
DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO COMPEL ADMISSION INTO THE ATLANTIC COUNTY PRETRIAL INTERVENTION PROGRAM WAS ...