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In re Denial of the Application of Rouse

March 26, 2010


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Criminal Part, Essex County.

Per curiam.


Submitted March 8, 2010

Before Judges Rodríguez and Yannotti.

Theron Rouse appeals from the September 15, 2008 order entered by Judge Michael J. Nelson, affirming the Newark Police Department's denial of his application for a permit to purchase a handgun, N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3, and for a firearm identification card, N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3. We affirm.

Rouse applied for the permits. He was denied. Newark Police Detective Rockean Sanders, who is a Firearms Investigator, notified Rouse on June 2, 2008, that he had been denied the permit due to "public health, safety and welfare" reasons.

Rouse appealed to the Law Division. There was a hearing at which Newark Police Detective Tommy Victor was the sole witness. Victor testified that Rouse told him that he needed a handgun to protect his "business." Rouse said he was in the process of opening a bail bonds business and an armed security firm. However, no such businesses existed at the time. Rouse had no history of convictions but had a history of arrests. The most serious of those arrests occurred on September 6, 1995, in Newark. Rouse was arrested for: unlawful possession of a weapon (shotgun); possession of the shotgun for an unlawful purpose; and possession of a defaced firearm. These charges were dismissed following Rouse's successful completion of the Pretrial Intervention Program (PTI). Rouse told the detective that he was involved in an argument with a man on the street and went into his house to retrieve a shotgun, which he showed the man just to scare him away.

Rouse was also arrested on four other occasions and charged with: (1) possession of CDS on September 11, 1997; (2) possession of marijuana in East Orange in September 1997; (3) domestic violence simple assault in June 2000; and (4) bail jumping, possession of CDS and other CDS offenses in Newark in September 2003. Rouse told the detective that he had "no knowledge" of any of the arrests.

The police investigation also revealed that Rouse had a pending charge for contempt resulting from an arrest by New Jersey Transit Police in Jersey City on April 16, 2005. Rouse was asked to provide documentation concerning the disposition of the Jersey City charge. Rouse did not do so.

According to Victor, he observed during a face-to-face interview that Rouse's demeanor was peculiar in that "[Rouse] became very outraged, irate at times, and sometimes he just began to laugh and talk very loudly to himself." Rouse explained to the detective that he was seeking help for a mental and physical problem at University Hospital for post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from an incident where Rouse was shot in the back by the brother of a friend. Rouse was asked to provide a letter from a treating physician indicating whether Rouse's post-traumatic stress problems would not prevent him from safely handling firearms. Rouse never submitted such a letter.

At the hearing, Rouse testified that the only information he had concerning the alleged incident in Jersey City was that: personally I was being pursued by another individual. They were following me, following me around Newark, following me around Jersey City, the same individuals who have in the past shot me or conspired to shoot me, you know, along with a brother of mine, my physical, my biological brother.

The judge also reviewed a letter submitted on behalf of Rouse by Dr. Coburn, a mental health professional.*fn1 Judge Nelson held that:

... in accordance with [N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3c(5)], I find that it is not in the interest of public health, society, and the welfare of our society and community to issue you a permit to purchase a handgun or a firearm identification card based on the arrest and disorderly persons conviction, the mental health issues that currently still exist as it would relate to the statute.

Rouse appeals to us. Rouse makes no specific argument other than his disagreement with the decision by the Department and the Law Division. From our careful review of the record, we conclude that Judge Nelson's decision that, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3c(5), the issuance of the permits to Rouse would not be in "the interest of the public health, [safety] or welfare" is amply supported by the facts. Judge Nelson correctly found that the Newark Police Chief's designee established the existence of ...

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