On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Passaic County, Docket No. FO-16-318-09.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Yannotti and Espinosa.
Defendant G.S. appeals from his conviction for disorderly persons contempt for violation of a final restraining order, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9(b). We affirm.
Defendant's former wife, D.S., obtained a final restraining order (FRO) against defendant in February 2006. Both the FRO and the May 2006 amended FRO barred defendant from D.S.'s residence and place of employment and also prohibited him, inter alia, from:
3. . . . having any (oral, written, personal, electronic or other) form of contact or communication with [her and their children]
4. . . . making or causing anyone else to make harassing communications to [her and their children]
At the hearing, D.S. testified that on the afternoon of April 12, 2009, Easter Sunday, defendant arrived at her residence to pick up their son for parenting time. She stated that defendant came into the doorway of her house, shouting at her, "degrading [her] because [she is] a Christian" in front of her children. When asked to state precisely what defendant had said, D.S. asked if she had "to say the 'F' word and things like that . . . [b]ecause he used curse words." She stated defendant said, "You think you're a churchgoer, you're so Godly like. You're nothing but [an] asshole." D.S. stated that defendant did this with her children listening and held a blow-up of a photograph of him with an ex-girlfriend defendant had lived with before their marriage. D.S. testified that she told defendant he had to leave and started to close the door.
In his testimony, defendant acknowledged that he entered the front door to pick up his son and did not believe he was prohibited from doing so. He stated he brought an Easter card that he had made with the children's photo on it and wanted his daughter to sign the card if she was not going to go along for parenting time so he could give it to his mother and her husband. He also had the picture described by D.S. with him. Defendant stated that the picture was of a woman he knew from school, not the woman he had lived with prior to his marriage. He denied shoving any pictures in D.S.'s face. Defendant stated he merely asked D.S. if he was going to see their daughter for Easter and his birthday. According to defendant, it was D.S. who angrily screamed at him, stating, "She's not going to see you, she fucking hates you. Because you're a fucking scumbag." She also screamed, "[W]here's my child support arrears. You're a deadbeat Dad." Defendant testified that he did not reply.
Defendant also stated that, at the time of the incident, his relationship with D.S. was strained because they were scheduled to return to court approximately one and one-half weeks later on D.S.'s request for an increase in child support.
The complaint filed against defendant alleged that he had committed the act of contempt*fn1 by purposely disobeying a final restraining order . . . by having verbal communication with the plaintiff [D.S.], specifically by pushing open the plaintiff's front door to her residence and yelling at her with profanity while showing her photographs, after being served with a copy of the FRO.
The trial court found that the State had not carried its burden of proof regarding the allegation that defendant had pushed open the front door to her residence. However, as to the allegation that defendant had violated the part of the FRO ...