On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County, Indictment No. 10-04-0320.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted November 1, 2011 -
Before Judges Simonelli and Hayden.
Defendant Vanessa Ponder appeals from the June 22, 2010 order denying her application for admission to the Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) program.
The record reveals that on February 28, 2010, at approximately 3:00 a.m., defendant, then twenty years old, became involved in a dispute with another patron of a fast-food restaurant over a food order. When the other patron left the restaurant, defendant followed her, took out a box cutter, and made two deep lacerations in the patron's left cheek. Thereafter, the patron was taken to the hospital, and defendant was arrested and charged with one count of third-degree aggravated assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(2).
On April 16, 2010, defendant waived presentation of the matter to a grand jury and entered a guilty plea to the accusation. In return for the plea, the State agreed to recommend a sentence of probation and to permit defendant to apply to the PTI program out of time. On May 21, 2010, the PTI director rejected defendant's application, adopting the recommendation of the PTI probation officer, who stated:
[Defendant] strikes the [PTI probation officer] as a very bright and relatively well-read individual, with issues involving her alcohol abuse and depression which she does appear to be attempting to actively address.
Unfortunately, that said, [defendant's] involvement here appears to be a clear continuation of her juvenile involvement, which included more than one act of violent behavior.
Further, the present pending matter reflects an incident of extreme violence utilizing a weapon which resulted in serious injury to the victim, and could easily have resulted in a much worse outcome.
In rejecting defendant's application, the PTI director found that the offense was beyond the scope of PTI, defendant's attitude was not amenable to change through counseling, her behavior pattern was too well-established, and the offense was deliberately and violently committed against another person. The Hudson County Prosecutor concurred with the recommendation. Defendant appealed to the trial judge, who affirmed the decision of the prosecutor. Immediately after denying the motion, the trial judge sentenced defendant to two years probation and imposed the appropriate fines and penalties. This appeal followed.
On appeal, defendant contends:
THE PROSECUTOR'S REJECTION OF DEFENDANT'S ADMISSION INTO PTI IS AN ARBITRARY, PATENT, AND GROSS ABUSE OF DISCRETION, WHICH ...