On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Cape May County, Docket No. FV-05-000217-12.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 25, 2012
Before Judges Yannotti and Hoffman.
Defendant appeals from a final restraining order entered by the trial court on October 19, 2011, pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA), N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35. We affirm.
On October 1, 2011, plaintiff filed a domestic violence complaint. She alleged that on September 30, 2011, defendant followed her to a local establishment and began to harass her about answering her cell phone and responding to various text messages defendant sent to her. Plaintiff claimed that, during that day, defendant had repeatedly called her on her cell phone. Plaintiff asserted that she made clear to defendant that she did not want to be "with" him. Plaintiff further alleged that defendant had been calling her several months, and she told him she was "tired" of his calls. The trial court entered a preliminary restraining order on October 1, 2011.
The court conducted an evidentiary hearing in the matter on October 19, 2011. Plaintiff testified that she was defendant's "ex-girlfriend." She had been trying to end the relationship with defendant for a long time and "finally" got defendant out of her house in July 2011. However, in August 2011, defendant "came back" to plaintiff with what she called the "same old story." Plaintiff "agreed to give [defendant] another chance." According to plaintiff, "within weeks it just went the same old way, with verbal abuse."
Plaintiff told defendant "it was over" but he kept calling and texting [her.]" Defendant began following her. One day, when plaintiff left work for lunch and she saw defendant. He followed her down the street. Also, when plaintiff was working alone at night, defendant sent her a text message telling her she should be careful when working alone. Plaintiff considered this as a "veiled threat[.]"
Plaintiff further testified that on one occasion, she went out to dinner with a girlfriend and they stopped at a bar to have a drink on the way home. Defendant walked in and confronted plaintiff. He told her she should not ignore his calls and text messages. She told defendant she was not going to respond. Defendant then went to the other side of the bar and glared at plaintiff and her girlfriend. Defendant approached her girlfriend and said plaintiff was a "tramp" and "white trash."
Plaintiff testified that defendant's actions were "incessant harassment." Defendant sent her 346 text messages and she responded by telling him to leave her alone. Defendant sent half of the messages in July 2011. He sent the other messages after the end of September 2011. Plaintiff additionally stated that defendant passed her house a couple of times during the previous weekend. Plaintiff said she just wanted to be left alone.
Defendant testified that he had a relationship with plaintiff for three-and-a-half years and it was "a very good relationship." He did not deny sending plaintiff the text messages but said the texts were sent "over a long period of time." He stated that he was "simply trying to salvage what [he] thought was a worthwhile relationship."
Defendant further testified that he "cared for" and "loved" plaintiff. He was "crazy about her." Defendant said that, one Friday evening, he drove past plaintiff's home. He had no choice because he lives on the same street. Defendant thought plaintiff was at home because he observed her car in the driveway. Defendant drove to a local bar and checked the parking lot to make sure plaintiff was not there. He did not want a confrontation.
Defendant entered and saw plaintiff. Defendant testified that he had an "issue with some of the company she keeps." He told plaintiff that they needed to talk and she should respond to his texts. He also told plaintiff's friend what he thought of her. Defendant said he was not "over the top." He was not screaming. He walked around to the other side of the bar. Defendant denied glaring at plaintiff and her ...