On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Passaic County, Municipal Appeal No. 10-4871.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Parrillo and Espinosa.
Defendant Jacques E. Argilagos was found guilty in the municipal court of the petty disorderly offense of disorderly conduct, N.J.S.A. 2C:33-2a. On appeal to the Law Division, Rule 3:23-2, he was again found guilty of the same offense after a trial de novo. Defendant appeals, and we affirm.
According to the State's proofs, defendant is a tenant of a rooming or boarding house located in Passaic. On July 9, 2009, Ismael Moody, a resident and superintendent of the building, responded to banging and screaming on the third floor, where he observed defendant cursing while banging and kicking the door of a room occupied by another tenant, Mark Owens, who lived by himself. Owens, who had returned from work, was inside the apartment and could hear defendant yelling. At some point, the police arrived and Moody let them into the building. When Officer Michael Kisfalvi approached Owens and asked him if he was "okay," defendant charged at Owens, coming within two feet of him. Defendant was cursing and yelling at Owens and waving his hands in Owens's face. Officer Kisfalvi, believing defendant was going to strike Owens, ordered defendant to step back twice. When defendant ignored the command, Kisfalvi arrested defendant for disorderly conduct based on the officer's own observations.
Defendant gave a different account. According to defendant, he was sitting in his room watching television and reading a newspaper when he heard a loud noise at his door. He called police and when Officer Kisfalvi arrived, defendant identified Owens as the person banging on his door and also accused Owens of threatening him and spitting on his door. At the time, defendant was standing twenty feet away from Owens. Defendant claimed Owens had also threatened him with a knife and tried to "pick" a fight with him.
Crediting Officer Kisfalvi's testimony, the municipal court judge found defendant guilty of the petty disorderly offense of disorderly conduct by engaging in threatening behavior with purpose to cause public inconvenience or annoyance, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:33-2a(1). The judge reasoned:
I don't believe your [defendant's] version, I don't believe your story. The only person that testified in my courtroom that apparently has no issue with you, because you seem to have issue with everybody in that building. Either you have an issue with Mr. Moody, so both of your testimonies maybe balance or counterbalance each other.
The one person that's got no interest . . . in the outcome of this case is the officer. He doesn't live in the building, he doesn't have charges pending or you didn't have charges pending against him, he didn't ask you to move out of the building.
He responded to a police call for the disturbance between tenants. And the officer said when he walked in the building he saw you screaming and yelling and carrying on, [waving] your arms, go[ing] after Mr. Owens. And had it not been for the officer to intervene, you would have assaulted him.. . . .
His testimony is that Mr. Owens was very calm, was not yelling. The only person that was yelling and screaming was you. The one that was about to commit an assault was you, not Mr. Owens. Mr. Moody apparently wasn't involved. He directed the officer upstairs or let him in.. . . .
He did say he saw you screaming, yelling, going after the other person. You had your arms in his face or your hands or fingers were pointing at him. I find you guilty of this charge of disorderly conduct. The State has proven this case against you beyond a reasonable doubt.
I find that you engaged in fighting behavior on that day, under Subsection 1 of 33-[2A], improper behavior. I do find that you did engage in conduct that created an inconvenience for the public. The police had to arrive there. There were other people in the ...