On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Somerset County, Docket No. FV-18-000592-11.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Yannotti and Kennedy.
Respondent has not filed a brief.
Defendant appeals from a final restraining order (FRO) under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-27 to -35. Defendant and plaintiff, E.D., had dated for several months and E.D. obtained the order after the court found defendant committed an act of harassment against her. See N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4 (defining harassment); N.J.S.A. 2C:25-19 (defining harassment as an act of domestic violence). We affirm.
On December 14, 2010, E.D. filed a Domestic Violence Civil Complaint against defendant alleging she was harassed that same day. She asserted that defendant sent her several text messages advising her to "get her daughter . . . leave the house and get to a safe place." She added that defendant ended one text message with the word "bullets" leading her to fear for her safety. On the basis of the allegations in the complaint, the trial court entered a temporary restraining order and later conducted a hearing to determine whether a FRO should be issued.
E.D. testified that she and defendant met on an internet dating site on September 2010, and began a dating relationship. During the course of their dating relationship, they went to dinner several times, went on shopping excursions and spoke often on the phone. In late November 2010, however, E.D. decided to break up the relationship and defendant "left unhappily." E.D. elected to terminate the relationship because she found defendant to be "highly suspicious of many things" and "a little anti-social." After terminating the relationship, she noted that defendant became "a little agitated."
At the time, E.D. was living with her sixteen-year-old daughter, a
high school student. On December 14, 2010, just before 3:00 p.m.
defendant sent a text message to E.D. that read "Kurt*fn1
now." E.D. "immediately was alarmed" by the text message and
by return text asked defendant what he meant. Defendant replied one
minute later, "call Deb. Go to Kurtz fast. [Amber]*fn2
." E.D. believed the reference to "Deb" was meant to refer to
the first name of a lawyer known to both plaintiff and defendant.
A few minutes later, defendant again sent a text message to E.D. which read "go now Kurtz fast." E.D. replied by text stating, "call me now. I don't understand what you are saying, or should I call the police?" Defendant replied a minute later with a text message stating, "No. Call Kurt. Get Amber and get somewhere safe. Bullets! I'm sorry." At this point, E.D. was "completely in a panic" and took [Amber] to her next door neighbor's home. Knowing that defendant lived approximately three minutes away and worrying that he might be standing outside of her home, E.D. called the police and signed a Domestic Violence Complaint which the police thereafter served upon defendant. E.D. and her daughter then left their home and stayed at a friend's house for the next two nights. She also "kept in touch with the police" to ascertain whether they were able to contact defendant.
Defendant testified and confirmed that he had sent the text messages to E.D. He also testified that he had a "history of mental illness" and that he had been taking anti-depressant and anti-psychotic medications. He indicated that on December 14, 2010, he "perceived there was some very real threats against [him], and . . . felt they may be extended to [E.D.] as a result of her involvement with [him]." Consequently, he "wanted to alert her that there could be danger and . . . didn't want to take any chances." When asked at the FRO hearing if he still believed there was a threat against his life, he replied "I don't think so, no" and confirmed that "it would appear that it was my imagination." When asked if it was reasonable to expect that an event like this could happen again, defendant testified "yes, yes. Theoretically, it's possible." Defendant's brother-in-law testified that he met with defendant that evening and transported him to a mental health facility.
Following the presentation of testimony, the trial judge made findings of fact and conclusions of law. He found specifically that the parties had had a dating relationship, thereby conferring jurisdiction on the court, and that defendant sent the text messages at issue to E.D. The judge then addressed ...