On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Bergen County, Docket No. FV-02-1053-11.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 12, 2011 - Decided
Before Judges C.L. Miniman and LeWinn.
Defendant H.N. appeals from a final restraining order (FRO) entered on December 6, 2010, in favor of plaintiff M.A.C., prohibiting defendant from, inter alia, having any contact or communication with plaintiff and several others. We now affirm.
The evidence at trial established that plaintiff and defendant had an
eight-month dating relationship that ended on
August 21, 2010. According to plaintiff, three days later, defendant
began calling her a great deal, and plaintiff stated that during their
relationship and previous breakups, defendant called plaintiff
excessively and texted her repeatedly, especially when defendant could
not otherwise reach her. Plaintiff also testified that several days
after that, defendant parked outside her residence and called her cell
phone, saying, "'Hello, my dear. . . . I'm right here. I see you
coming in.'" Plaintiff protested to defendant that she*fn1
had to move on. Then defendant began calling plaintiff's
mother after Labor Day, although she knew that plaintiff had not lived
with her mother since March 31.
Plaintiff testified that defendant also left her messages that she was going to call her friends, family, and business associates to tell them plaintiff was a liar and had defendant's things and was a thief. On another occasion when defendant learned that plaintiff had gone for lunch and dinner with a former girlfriend, defendant called plaintiff and accused her of deceiving her.
Plaintiff received so many calls that she changed her phone number several times, yet defendant somehow was able to learn all but the last of the new numbers. According to plaintiff, on more than one occasion defendant called plaintiff's phone and played music on the voicemail; after one such call, defendant sent a text message apologizing and calling it "'a moment of weakness,'" demonstrating that she was aware that she was annoying plaintiff. Plaintiff would respond with texts asking defendant to stop.
Although the judge heard hearsay testimony from plaintiff about calls defendant was making to plaintiff's family, this evidence was corroborated by the following text message defendant sent plaintiff, which the judge read into the record: "'Your only concern is my calls to your family, not all the lies that were told to me.'" The judge, in reviewing text messages saved in plaintiff's phone, found that there was "really [a] constant stream of [messages] from October 5th." Eventually, plaintiff testified, the text messages stopped, but the calls continued. Plaintiff further testified that prior to meeting defendant she had not received anonymous calls from anyone. She produced personal and work phone bills to establish this fact and the frequency of the anonymous calls.
Additionally, plaintiff read a series of emails from defendant into the record, to which plaintiff would respond by writing that she wanted the communication to stop. However, defendant persisted. Plaintiff's mother also testified, describing the many calls she received from defendant, most anonymous. She, too, had never received anonymous calls before plaintiff's relationship with defendant.
Plaintiff went to the police to lodge a complaint on October 13, 2010. According to plaintiff, between that date and her application for a temporary restraining order on November 4, the telephone calls continued.
The trial judge found that the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (the Act), N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35, applied to the parties by virtue of their dating relationship and found by a preponderance of the evidence that plaintiff met her burden of proof under the Act. She found from the telephone records that plaintiff did not receive any calls from an unknown phone number until she met defendant and thereafter received multiple such calls. She found that defendant knew how to block her phone number and did so. She found that the text messages were from defendant and that defendant communicated incessantly with plaintiff.
The judge also found that the unknown calls to plaintiff's mother were from defendant "[a]nd that . . . defendant has engaged on a campaign to harass, distress, and . . . attempt to cause the plaintiff to feel threatened by . . . defendant's behavior." She found that defendant threatened to call plaintiff's clients and family members and that she did so as to the latter, and "that ...