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State of New Jersey v. Tamica R. Ruffin

November 20, 2012

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
TAMICA R. RUFFIN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Indictment No. 09-01-00033.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted October 29, 2012 -

Before Judges Parrillo and Fasciale.

Defendant appeals from her convictions for harassment, N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4; fourth-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5d; and third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4d. We affirm.

Defendant, then an employee of the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS),*fn1 spotted the victim's vehicle and tailgated her. When the victim stopped at a red light, defendant stopped her vehicle, exited, approached the victim's vehicle while displaying a knife and/or plastic letter opener, leaned into the front passenger window, and then stabbed the victim's backpack. The victim testified that the object was a "switchblade knife" with a black handle and a silver blade that was "about four or five inches long." The light turned green and the victim drove away.

Defendant then followed the victim into a nearby store's parking lot, where the victim phoned the police. Defendant yelled, "I have your license plate down. I'm going to find out where you live. I'm going to come and f____ you and your family up. I'm going to blood gut you guys. Don't worry, I got you." The victim informed defendant that she was on the phone with a 9-1-1 dispatcher, and then defendant left.

Police officers met with the victim and investigated the incident. Detectives Sean Forker and Alan Sciarrillo found defendant at her apartment complex where she initially denied involvement in the incident, but then agreed to speak with Detective Forker. Thereafter, she waived her Miranda*fn2 rights and gave her statement to the detective, who then arrested defendant and charged her with terroristic threats, unlawful possession of a weapon, and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose.

The judge conducted a six-day jury trial in June 2010. The judge sentenced defendant to the county jail for 364 days and suspended the sentence. He then imposed a five-year probation term and barred defendant from holding public office or employment.

Defendant raises the following points on appeal:

POINT I:

THERE WAS NO CRIME COMMITTED UNDER N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4(1)(d) (THIRD DEGREE) AND N.J.S.A. 2C:39-5d (FOURTH DEGREE) AS THE DEFINITION OF WEAPON REQUIRES SOMETHING CAPABLE OF LETHAL USE OR INFLICTING SERIOUS BODILY INJURY.

POINT II:

THE PROSECUTOR, IN HER RESPONSE TO A GRAND JUROR'S QUESTION AS TO WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A "LETTER OPENER" AND A "KNIFE," GAVE AN INCORRECT AND IMPROPER RESPONSE, ...


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