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Y.W. v. R.L.

May 14, 2010


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Family Part, Bergen County, Docket No. FV-02-2019-09.

Per curiam.



Submitted April 20, 2010

Before Judges Wefing and Grall.

Defendant R.L. appeals from a final restraining order entered pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA), N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35. The complaint was filed by defendant's former wife, plaintiff Y.W. Defendant argues that the complaint does not include allegations sufficient to establish a prima facie case of domestic violence. He also contends that the trial judge's finding of harassment as defined in N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4c, which is based upon his mailing of intimate photographs of plaintiff to third parties, is not supported by adequate competent evidence. Plaintiff did not participate in this appeal. Because the complaint was sufficient and the evidence was adequate, we affirm.

A summary of the evidence produced at trial follows. Plaintiff and defendant were divorced on April 30, 2008, after three years of marriage. After their divorce, the parties resumed a dating relationship, which they terminated on October 3, 2008. This complaint was filed on April 3, 2009.*fn1

There was no dispute that during their relationship, defendant took pictures of plaintiff, with her consent, while she was unclothed. The pictures were taken in the marital residence and no one other than the parties was present when they were taken. According to plaintiff, when she left the marital residence, defendant threatened that he would post those pictures of her on the internet and send them to her "future" boyfriend.

On October 3, 2008, the day plaintiff ended their post-divorce dating relationship, they argued. During that argument, defendant hit plaintiff three times in her mouth and pulled her hair.

On November 14, 2008, defendant sent plaintiff a letter by Federal Express. He wrote, "Now you have your pictures, enjoy them." According to defendant, however, the reference to pictures in that letter was to photos he had taken on their vacations, not to the intimate pictures he had taken.

On November 26, 2008, defendant signed a Federal Express form arranging a delivery to plaintiff's mother in China. The labeling on the envelope indicated that photos were enclosed. At trial, defendant acknowledged sending that envelope and testified that the photos were of places the parties toured and of his mother-in-law's visit to the United States. According to plaintiff, after November 26, 2008 her mother sent her intimate photos of plaintiff that defendant had taken in the marital residence.

In November 2008, plaintiff's car was moved from the place where she had left it. She received a call from a person who told her where she could find her car. She recognized the caller's voice; it was defendant, who still had a key to her car. She later found the car parked in a lot at Newark Airport where defendant said it would be. The vehicle was not damaged in any way, but the personal belongings she had left inside were missing.

In December 2008, plaintiff filed and withdrew a complaint seeking a restraining order under the PDVA. At that time, she and defendant signed an agreement specifying restraints they would observe. Pursuant to that agreement, defendant was to refrain from "disseminating . . . private intimate pictures of plaintiff to plaintiff's family, friends, or [any] other third-party." The parties also agreed not to have contact with one another. Plaintiff was taking classes at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck (FDU), and they agreed that defendant would delay his participation in a graduate program at FDU until September 2009.

In January 2009, defendant started his graduate studies at FDU. On January 17, 2009, plaintiff was visiting her boyfriend in New York and during that visit received a call on her cell phone from defendant, who said he knew where she was. On January 25, 2009, within days of starting a new job at a new location, plaintiff saw defendant in his car outside her workplace. That night she learned that the gas tank of her car, which she had parked in a lot at FDU, had been filled with water. On February 17, 2009, plaintiff and defendant were both at a mall and passed each other on ...

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