On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Warren County, Indictment No. 06-04-0144.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted November 4, 2010 - Decided
Before Judges Cuff, Simonelli, and Fasciale.
Following a jury trial, defendant J.A.C. was convicted of three counts of second-degree sexual assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2b (counts one, four, and six); three counts of second-degree endangering the welfare of a child, N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4a (counts two, five, and seven); and one count of first-degree aggravated sexual assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2a(1) (count three).*fn1 The charges stemmed from defendant's sexual assault of C.A., the daughter of his ex-girlfriend, Carol.*fn2 Following trial, defendant pled guilty to second-degree sexual assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2b (count eleven) involving another female child, J.F.,*fn3 and the trial judge dismissed two counts of second-degree sexual assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2b, (counts ten and twelve) pursuant to the plea agreement.
The judge sentenced defendant to a twenty-year extended term of imprisonment with a ten-year period of parole ineligibility on count three, and a concurrent ten-year term of imprisonment on the remaining counts. The judge also imposed the appropriate assessments and penalty.
On appeal, defendant raises the following arguments:
POINT I: THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN SUMMARILY DENYING THE DEFENDANT'S REQUEST FOR A NON-JURY TRIAL WITHOUT CONDUCTING ANY HEARING RELATING THERETO, WITH ITS DECISION BEING EMBODIED IN A SINGLE-SENTENCE RULING.
POINT II: THE DEFENDANT WAS DENIED HIS RIGHT TO A FAIR TRIAL AS A RESULT OF THE TRIAL COURT'S RULING UNDULY RESTRICTING THE DEFENDANT'S ELICITATION OF TESTIMONY RELATING TO NUMEROUS INSTANT MESSAGE COMMUNICATIONS BETWEEN THE VICTIM AND VARIOUS ADULT MALES OF AN EXPLICIT SEXUAL NATURE.
POINT III: THE PROSECUTOR'S SUMMATION EXCEEDED THE BOUNDS OF PROPRIETY.
POINT IV: THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BY RULING THE STATE WOULD BE PERMITTED TO CROSS-EXAMINE ANY CHARACTER WITNESSES PRESENTED BY THE DEFENSE REGARDING THE DEFENDANT'S PRIOR CONVICTIONS WHICH THE COURT HAD PREVIOUSLY DEEMED INADMISSIBLE AS BEING TOO REMOTE IN THE EVENT THE DEFENDANT TESTIFIED.
POINT V: THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BY
FAILING TO MERGE COUNT IV (SEXUAL ASSAULT) INTO COUNT III (AGGRAVATED SEXUAL ASSAULT) AS WELL AS BY FAILING TO MERGE COUNTS II AND VII (ENDANGERING THE WELFARE OF A MINOR) INTO A SINGLE OFFENSE.
POINT [VI]: THE SENTENCE IMPOSED WAS MANIFESTLY EXCESSIVE.
We affirm defendant's convictions and sentence, except we remand for entry of a corrected judgment of conviction to reflect the mergers of count four with count three and count two with count seven.
Defendant and Carol began dating in February 1998. Carol had two children at the time: C.A. and a son. Defendant and Carol later had a child together. Defendant cared for the children while Carol worked as a bartender several nights a week until 2:00 a.m. The parties' relationship ended in August 2001, when defendant met another woman.
On March 23, 2003, Carol discovered sexually explicit instant message (IM) conversations between C.A. and adult males on her computer. C.A. initially denied knowledge of the IMs but ...