On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Ocean County, Indictment No. 09-09-1697.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted January 25, 2012
Before Judges Lihotz and Waugh.
Defendant James E. Minor appeals from his conviction, following a guilty plea, for second-degree burglary, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2(b); and fourth-degree contempt of a court order, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:29-9(b). We affirm.
We discern the following facts and procedural history from the record on appeal, including the testimony given at the evidentiary hearing concerning pre-trial motions.
Minor and his former girlfriend, to whom we will refer by the pseudonym Smith, met through an online dating service in August 2008, and began dating shortly thereafter. In September 2008, Minor was arrested and charged with an alleged act of domestic violence against a prior girlfriend.
After Minor was released, he and Smith started living together at her apartment in Manchester. Minor lived there until March 19, 2009. Smith alleged that Minor committed acts of domestic violence against her on November 12, 2008, December 28, 2008, and March 19, 2009. Following the November 2008 incident, Minor was charged with three counts of making terroristic threats, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3. After the March 2009 incident, Smith sought and received a restraining order that prohibited Minor from having contact with her.
On April 16, 2009, Smith received a friend request on Facebook from a person named "James Minor." She contacted the police and supplied them with a printed copy of the request. As a result, Minor was arrested and charged with violating the restraining order. Minor remained in jail for four days prior to his trial on that charge.
Smith testified against Minor at the April 20 trial. Minor was acquitted because the judge found that there was insufficient evidence that Minor himself had contacted Smith through Facebook. Minor was released from jail following the acquittal.
The next day, Minor entered a secure area in Smith's apartment complex and assaulted her. He also pulled a charm off of the necklace Smith was wearing. Minor was arrested and eventually indicted for second-degree burglary and violating the restraining order, as well as second-degree robbery, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1.
In a pretrial motion, the State sought leave to present trial testimony concerning Minor's domestic violence history involving both Smith and the prior girlfriend. The State also sought to try a separate indictment, arising out of the November 2008 incident, at the same time. The judge denied both applications. The judge granted Minor's motion to sever the count charging fourth-degree contempt arising from the April 2009 incident, and ordered a separate trial on that charge.
However, the judge allowed the State to introduce evidence concerning the March 2009 restraining order and the fact that Smith had testified against Minor one day before the alleged burglary and robbery in April. The judge concluded that the testimony was relevant to the issue of Minor's motive and that ...