NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 3, 2011
Decided Before Judges Fisher and Simonelli.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Municipal Appeal No. 009-13-09.
Gregg F. Paster & Associates, attorneys for appellant (Gregg F. Paster, of counsel and on the brief; Jennifer Holdsworth-Kleinman, on the brief).
John L. Molinelli, Bergen County Prosecutor, attorney for respondent (Annmarie Cozzi, Senior Assistant Prosecutor, of counsel and on the brief).
Following a de novo trial in the Law Division, defendant Costas Georgopoulos was convicted of harassment, N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4a. The charge stems from an incident that occurred on July 19, 2007, at a law office in Fort Lee. Defendant entered the office without an appointment and angrily screamed at the receptionist several times, "where's Matt[hew] Fierro, [Esq.,] he can't hide from me forever, I'm going to get him. You give him a message, you tell him I'm going to get him, I need to see him face to face." At the time of the incident, Matthew Fierro (Fierro) was a municipal prosecutor for the Borough of Fort Lee. He had successfully prosecuted two municipal court matters against defendant. Defendant was "severely displeased" by the outcome of those prosecutions.
The receptionist was visibly shaken by defendant's statement. She called Fierro, who was at the Borough of Fort Lee Municipal Court, and told him what had happened. Matthew Fierro's brother, Mark Fierro, Esq., who heard what defendant said, became alarmed and frightened and felt threatened.
On July 24, 2007, Fierro signed a complaint against defendant charging him with harassment, N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4a. Two days later, defendant returned to the law office and asked for Fierro, who was there at the time. Fierro was frightened and shaken by defendant's presence, and called the police. The police apprehended defendant outside the office.
During the municipal court trial, over defense counsel's objection based on relevance, the municipal court judge permitted cross-examination about defendant's anger over an rights violation during one of the matters Fierro prosecuted against him, and about his allegation that Fierro was involved in a conspiracy against him. The judge found this evidence relevant to defendant's state of mind and intent to alarm or annoy.
The judge also permitted questions about defendant's prior harassment conviction, to which defense counsel did not object. The judge subsequently sua sponte excluded this evidence and did not rely on it to convict defendant.
In this appeal, defendant raises the following arguments for our consideration:
Point One: The Court Below Erred In Admitting Irrelevant And/Or Non-Probative Testimony And Improperly Overruled Several Defense Objections.
Point Two: The Court Erred In Convicting The Defendant Of Harassment In Violation [Of N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4a] As The Verdict Was Against The Greater Weight Of The Evidence ...