On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Indictment No. 05-02-0320.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted November 18, 2009
Before Judges Sapp-Peterson and Espinosa.
Defendant, Larry Thompson, a dance instructor, appeals his conviction on numerous charges of sexual assault and related charges he committed against two of his former dance pupils. He was sentenced to an aggregate fifty year prison term, with a twenty-five-year period of parole ineligibility. We affirm.
In a thirty-five-count indictment, a grand jury indicted defendant, Larry Thompson, on six counts of first-degree aggravated sexual assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(a)(2)(b); eight counts of second-degree sexual assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(b); seven counts of third-degree aggravated criminal sexual contact, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-3(a); three counts of endangering the welfare of children, N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(a); and eleven counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual contact, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-3(b). A jury convicted defendant of twenty-eight counts contained in the indictment*fn1 and, at sentencing, the court imposed an aggregate custodial term of fifty years with a twenty-five year period of parole ineligibility.
The facts giving rise to the indictment are as follows. C.F. and her sister, M.F., began taking dance lessons from defendant at a dance studio where he worked when they were pre-teens. When he wanted to meet privately with a student, defendant would use the bathroom at the end of the studio as an office. C.F. testified that defendant began touching her vagina and breasts when she was close to thirteen years old.
Defendant eventually opened up his own school. Both C.F. and M.F. continued taking dance lessons with him at this new school. C.F. testified that defendant escalated the sexual abuse at the new school to vaginal digital penetration and intercourse. M.F. testified that defendant inappropriately touched her for the first time at this new school. She was about fourteen years old at that time.
Defendant closed his school and started operating a dance studio out of his home. The two sisters took dance lessons with defendant at this location. Both C.F. and M.F. testified that the sexual abuse continued there. Defendant and M.F. had sexual intercourse for the first time at defendant's home.
Defendant was subsequently successful in opening another dance studio. Once again, M.F. and C.F. followed defendant to this new studio for dance lessons, where the abuse continued. Both girls eventually stopped dancing. At no time while the abuse was occurring did the two sisters discuss the abuse with each other or anyone else. At some point after they stopped taking the dance lessons, M.F. told her mother that she had been molested. C.F. testified that when her mother asked whether she too had been molested, she said no because she did not want to cause her mother more pain.
The girls' mother did not report what M.F. had told her to the police. However, several years later, she told C.F. that M.F. told her about a newspaper article. C.F. decided that defendant "needed to be stopped" and contacted authorities, who filed charges against defendant. The Bergen County Prosecutor's Office then contacted M.F.
Defendant testified on his own behalf and denied sexually abusing either M.F. or C.F. He explained that he used the bathroom at the dance school where he first started instructing the girls as an office because "[t]here was no place to really talk alone to anyone."
The jury convicted defendant of all twenty-eight counts of the thirty-five count indictment related to C.F. and M.F. At sentencing, the court found four aggravating factors and one mitigating factor before imposing a fifty-year period of incarceration, along with a twenty-five-year period of parole ineligibility. The present appeal followed.
On appeal, defendant raises four points for our consideration:
POINT I THE TRIAL JUDGE ERRED IN DENYING THE DEFENSE REQUEST TO BAR TESTIMONY CONCERNING A NEWSPAPER ARTICLE ABOUT THE DEFENDANT. THE ADMISSION OF THIS EVIDENCE RESULTED IN A DEPRIVATION OF THE DEFENDANT'S RIGHT TO A FAIR TRIAL.
POINT II THE TRIAL JUDGE ERRED IN DENYING THE DEFENSE APPLICATION FOR A MISTRIAL FOLLOWING A WITNESS'S OUTBURST, WHICH IMPLICATED THE DEFENDANT IN ANOTHER CRIME.
POINT III THE TRIAL JUDGE ERRED IN DENYING THE DEFENSE MOTION FOR A MISTRIAL AFTER THE PROSECUTOR IMPROPERLY ACTED AS AN EXPERT IN ...