On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Indictment No.07-10-1760.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 13, 2010
Decided Before Judges Wefing and Koblitz.
A three-count indictment charged defendant with stalking, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10b, a crime of the fourth degree; contempt, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9a, a crime of the fourth degree; and stalking in the face of an existing order prohibiting same, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10c, a crime of the third degree. The last two charges were dismissed prior to trial. Defendant waived a jury and after a five-day bench trial, he was found not guilty of stalking but guilty of the petty disorderly persons' offense of harassment as a lesser-included offense. The trial court sentenced him to serve two years on probation, conditioned upon his receiving psychiatric treatment and having no contact with the complainant. Defendant has appealed from that conviction. After reviewing the record in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we affirm.
Defendant maintained a real estate office in Garfield, and the complainant operated a hair salon a short distance from defendant's office. Defendant first came to her hair salon selling tickets for a Rotary Club event; complainant purchased the tickets and told defendant he should become a customer of her shop. In the course of their conversation, she learned that defendant knew many members of complainant's extended family. Defendant began to have his hair cut at complainant's salon, and the two became close friends, so close that each referred to the other as his or her "best friend."
Defendant would often offer to run errands for complainant during the day, such as trips to the bank or picking up lunch for complainant and the others who worked in the salon. Defendant had an interest in a lake in northern New Jersey and regularly supplied tickets to complainant who would visit the facility with her daughters.*fn1 Complainant testified that on at least one occasion, she was accompanied by her husband and that on another, she met defendant's mother.
The two gave gifts to each other over the years. On several occasions complainant refused to accept defendant's gifts because they were so expensive. She admitted, for instance, that defendant had a mink coat delivered to her hair salon. She returned it to him immediately.
During the course of their friendship, defendant, on several occasions, lent money to complainant. She admitted on cross-examination that he had, over the years, advanced at least $30,000 in varying sums. She repaid that amount in its entirety, over defendant's protestations that he did not want repayment.
They regularly had lunch together, sometimes alone and sometimes with others. They also had dinner together, although on a less frequent basis. Despite the closeness of their relationship, it was never physical in nature.
After a few years, however, several instances occurred that began to cause complainant to have concerns about the relationship. She and her family relocated to a new house, and when she described the renovations and the items she selected, defendant protested that she should not have to do any work of that sort. When she arranged a party for her daughter's sixteenth birthday, she invited defendant and his wife. Complainant spoke to defendant about the invitation when she did not receive a response; he replied that his wife was not coming, but he would come by himself. She told him he could not come alone. At another point, she had to relocate her hair salon. Defendant pressured her to move to the building in which he had his real estate office and was unhappy when she refused to do so.
The incident with the birthday party occurred in September 2006. The following month, defendant told complainant that he was going to join the Lions Club, a group in which complainant was active. He told her that he knew that men were members and that by joining, he could spend more time with her. She told him not to join the club.
In approximately November 2006, complainant met an acquaintance and as a result of their conversation, the substance of which was hearsay and thus not admitted at trial, she became very upset. She went to the restaurant where she knew defendant and his father regularly had lunch and confronted them, asking defendant's father to stop his son from talking about her and from bothering her. She also told defendant to stay away from her, that she wanted nothing further to do with him. Defendant replied that he would stay away from her.
He did not, however; he would continue to call and sent a constant stream of cards and letters asserting his love for her. He sent a number of cards for her birthday, beginning several weeks in advance of the date and had gifts delivered to the salon for Valentine's Day. She would regularly find notes and gifts that ...