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State of New Jersey v. Golda Harris

September 30, 2011


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Union County, Indictment No. 07-06-00493.

Per curiam.


Submitted February 16, 2011

Before Judges Fuentes, Gilroy and Nugent.

A jury convicted defendant Golda Harris of second degree aggravated assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(1) (count two); third degree aggravated assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(2) (count four); two counts of third degree criminal mischief, N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3a (counts five and six); two counts of fourth degree unlawful possession of a weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5d (counts seven and nine); and two counts of third degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4 (counts eight and ten). The jury acquitted defendant of second degree aggravated assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(1) (count one), and third degree aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(2) (count three).

On December 12, 2008, after appropriate mergers, the court sentenced defendant on count two to seven years imprisonment with an 85% period of parole ineligibility pursuant to the No Early Release Act (NERA), N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2, and to three years of parole supervision on release. The court imposed concurrent prison terms of three years on counts five, seven, nine and ten. The court also imposed appropriate fines and penalties. Defendant appeals from her convictions and sentence. We affirm.


According to the State's proofs, the events resulting in the charges against defendant occurred on December 31, 2006, and January 1, 2007. Defendant had been involved in a relationship with Linn Jones, who had stayed at her Plainfield residence for approximately two weeks before December 31, 2006. On that evening, Jones and defendant dined at a friend's home and returned to defendant's house about 11:30. Defendant went to bed and Jones drove to the Plainfield home of Maryann Pringle, his girlfriend, with whom he went to a New Year's Eve party.*fn1

While Jones and Pringle were at the party, Pringle's neighbors, Terance Johnson and Monique Blackman-Johnson, returned home at approximately 1:15 on the morning of January 1, 2007, after attending church and visiting Mr. Johnson's mother. They saw defendant drive into their cul-de-sac behind them, park her dark colored Ford Explorer, walk to where Jones had parked his PT Cruiser in front of Pringle's home, and begin smashing the car with a mallet. After smashing the lights and windows and removing papers from the glove compartment, defendant walked back to her Explorer, removed folded clothing, placed the clothing on the top of the PT Cruiser, and drove away. The Johnsons phoned the police, reported the incident, and provided the Explorer's license plate number.

In response to the Johnsons' call, Plainfield police officer Adam Green responded and observed the damage to the PT Cruiser: a broken windshield, broken windows on both sides of the car, broken tail lights, and body damage to the driver's door and passenger's side. Green ran the license plate provided by the Johnsons. The Explorer was registered to defendant.

Later that morning, after Pringle and Jones returned to Pringle's home and saw the damage to Jones' car, Jones called defendant and Pringle called the police. They soon observed headlights and went outside, Pringle stopping in the driveway next to her car. As she stood there, the headlights "started charging towards [her]." Pringle recognized the approaching vehicle as defendant's Explorer. Defendant drove the Explorer into the back of Pringle's car, a Nissan Altima, then backed up and accelerated forward, striking the rear of Pringle's car until it crashed through the garage door. After forcing the Altima through the garage door, defendant backed up and drove toward Jones, who was running across the lawn. Jones ran around a neighbor's minivan as defendant's Explorer struck it. According to Pringle, if Jones had not run around the minivan, defendant's vehicle would have hit him.

Defendant next drove across another neighbor's lawn and struck that neighbor's SUV. She drove away but returned shortly thereafter; was taken into custody by the police; and her vehicle was towed from the scene. According to the tow report, there was no damage to the windshield of defendant's Explorer.

Defendant recounted a different version of the events. She had permitted Jones to stay with her on the condition that he would not return to Pringle. Jones had also agreed to testify for defendant against Pringle in a municipal court matter. Defendant had filed a municipal court complaint against Pringle and could have included Jones as a defendant, because both Pringle and Jones had allegedly attempted to extort money from her, but she agreed not to charge Jones if he testified against Pringle. Defendant realized that Jones had reneged on both agreements when she saw his car parked in front of Pringle's house on January 1, 2007.

After waking during the early morning hours of January 1, 2007, defendant drove to her sister's house and then to a store. As she drove by the cul-de-sac where Pringle lived, she spotted Jones' PT Cruiser parked in front of Pringle's home. Realizing Jones had broken his agreements with her, she drove back to her house, retrieved his clothes, drove back to Pringle's house, and put his clothes on the top of his car. According to defendant, except for damage to the rear window that had existed before that morning, the Cruiser had no other damage. Defendant drove home, telephoned the Plainfield Police Department, and then drove to police headquarters to talk to an officer about how she could enforce Jones' agreement to testify in the municipal court case.

After returning home, defendant received a call from Jones about the damage to his car. Although she denied knowing anything about it, Jones and Pringle asked her to come over to settle things. She drove to Pringle's home, parked next to Jones' car, and began walking toward the door when Pringle came out, uttered an expletive, and started coming toward her with a long pole. Defendant retreated to her car and attempted to back up, but Pringle smashed her windshield with the pole. Defendant attempted to make a U-turn but ran into the back of Jones' car. As Pringle began striking the top of her car with the pole, breaking the sun roof, defendant's glasses flew off her face. She tried to drive away but accidentally struck Pringle's car, which hit the garage. Defendant attempted to reverse as Pringle continued to strike the Explorer, and then she put her car in drive and drove across the grass. Her Explorer slid and struck a neighbor's car. As defendant tried to escape, she struck another neighbor's car, but she was finally able to elude Pringle and drive away. She stopped on a nearby street, found her glasses, and then returned to Pringle's street to wait for the police and report that she had been attacked. The police arrived and she was subsequently arrested.

During cross-examination, the prosecutor attacked defendant's credibility by questioning her about the credibility of the State's proofs:

(BY PROSECUTOR) Is it a coincidence that all of the 911 calls indicate that the person who was putting the clothes on the car is the same exact person who was destroying the car? (DEFENDANT) No. I think that was done intentionally and contrived.

Q. So everyone is lying except you?

A. The -- the --Q. I asked you a question ma'am. Is everyone lying except for you, yes or no? (TRIAL COUNSEL) Who is -- who is everyone? (DEFENDANT) Yeah, who's --(PROSECUTOR) Are all of the witnesses you've heard who testified that you struck the vehicle, are they all lying except for you? (DEFENDANT) Oh, the two, Jones and Johnson, yes, they are lying. .... (PROSECUTOR) So all of the damage to the vehicle is from you -- your driving, being chased by Mrs. Pringle? (DEFENDANT) I only know what damage I did. Know that I -- I damage ran into the back of it (sic), I see the light is broke. I didn't notice that I ...

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