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State of New Jersey

August 24, 2012

STATE OF NEW JERSEY IN THE INTEREST OF R.K., A MINOR.


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Burlington County, Docket No. FJ-03-1124-10.

Per curiam.

RECORD IMPOUNDED

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted May 15, 2012

Before Judges Messano and Espinosa.

Following an altercation with another juvenile at Juvenile Medium Security Facility (JMSF), R.K. was adjudicated a delinquent for actions, which if committed by an adult, would have constituted fourth-degree harassment, N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4(e), and third-degree aggravated assault,*fn1 N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1 and N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(7). He appeals, arguing only that the adjudication of delinquency based on aggravated assault was not supported by sufficient evidence. We affirm.

Both R.K. and the victim, S.R., were residents of JMSF, assigned to the F-wing. On December 29, 2009, after an emergency code was announced, Felton Goodwin, a Senior Correction Officer at JMSF, started to lock the wing down, which required the residents to follow a hallway path back to their cells. S.R. was following directly behind Goodwin's right shoulder, walking quickly, as Goodwin led the inmates back to their cells. Goodwin testified that R.K. came from behind S.R. and "punch[ed] him in the face . . . [a]t least three times." S.R., who was significantly smaller than R.K., fell to the ground. Goodwin testified that R.K. "start[ed] stomping [S.R.] in the face[,]" kicking him approximately ten times with his work boots and using two nearby walls as leverage. S.R. tried to use his hands to protect his face, but did not attempt to fight back.

After R.K. ignored Goodwin's instructions to stop, responding officers soon arrived and handcuffed the two boys.

Goodwin testified that S.R. had swelling in the "cheek area" of his face. Two witnesses called by defendant, Brian Wagner, an investigator for the Criminal Justice Commission, and Kathleen Weitzel, a nurse at JMSF, also testified regarding S.R.'s injuries.

R.K. admitted he instigated the assault "because [he] felt like it[,]" but stated he did not want to hurt S.R. He testified:

I hit [S.R.] once in the head. . . . And when he fell he started like kicking up like trying to get up and then he kicked me, kicked me in my private area and my leg and I fell. When I fell, he got on top of me and started, I had his fingers in my mouth, starting pulling [sic]. So we just started swinging at each other. Now I don't remember that I hit him or he hit me, but I know he had his fingers in my mouth. And when I took a run the officers was coming in and dragged me.

R.K. did not remember "stomping" S.R.'s face. On cross-examination, R.K. acknowledged that residents from north and south Jersey typically did not get along and that he had previously exchanged words with S.R.

The court adjudicated R.K. a delinquent, based on the charges of fourth-degree harassment and third-degree aggravated assault. It sentenced R.K. to a one-year term in training school on the harassment count to run concurrent to the term R.K. was serving, and an eighteen-month term on the aggravated assault count, said term to run consecutively to the term R.K. was serving. The court also imposed appropriate fines and penalties.

In this appeal, R.K. only challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support the adjudication of delinquency on the aggravated assault charge. This argument lacks sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written ...


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