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State of New Jersey v. J.H.P

December 19, 2012

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
J.H.P., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Indictment No. 10-09-1424.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued October 23, 2012

Before Judges Reisner and Hoffman.

Defendant J.H.P. appeals from the January 7, 2011 order of the Law Division affirming the prosecutor's denial of his application for admission into the pretrial intervention (PTI) program. We affirm.

I.

Defendant, then forty years old, hit, choked, and tried to suffocate his mother during an incident that stemmed from a toxic combination of substance abuse, depression, and family conflict. He then threatened his mother with a knife and forced her to consume an unknown quantity of Klonopin pills. Thereafter, he called the police and reported that his mother had taken pills to kill herself and that her injuries were due to a fall.

Defendant's mother sustained two broken ribs and required hospital treatment. When confronted by his brother at the hospital, defendant fled in his mother's car and took $600 from her purse. Defendant has serious mental health and substance abuse issues, but no prior criminal history. He is also highly educated with a graduate-level degree.

Defendant was indicted on the following charges: second-degree aggravated assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(2) (count one); third-degree terroristic threats, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3b (count two); and two counts of possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4d (counts three and four).

Following his indictment, defendant applied for admission into the PTI program. On September 28, 2010, the criminal division manager rejected defendant's application, citing the violent nature of the offense and the extensive treatment required to address defendant's substance abuse and mental health issues as the reasons for the decision. The prosecutor also rejected defendant's application, citing the nature of the offense and facts of the case, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-12e(1) and (2); and the likelihood that defendant's criminal offense was related to a condition or situation that would not be conducive to change through participation in short-term supervisory treatment, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-12e(6).

Pursuant to Rule 3:28(h), defendant appealed the rejection of his application to the Law Division, arguing that the prosecutor abused his discretion when he concluded that the treatment and supervision defendant required to address his substance abuse and mental health issues are beyond the scope of the PTI program. On January 6, 2011, following argument, the court denied defendant's appeal, stating, "[d]efendant needs very intense supervision and treatment . . . . [B]ased upon the reports this [c]court has read, the defendant . . . should be under supervision for longer than the ordinary term of [p]retrial [i]ntervention."

After the court ruled on his PTI appeal, defendant pled guilty to one count of aggravated assault (third degree), pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement, which called for a sentence of five years non-custodial probation along with in-patient drug treatment and mental health counseling. The trial court sentenced defendant in accordance with the plea agreement. This appeal followed, as permitted by Rule 3:28(g).

Defendant argues that the prosecutor's rejection of his PTI application amounted to a patent and gross abuse of discretion in light of his advanced education and the fact he has no prior criminal history of arrests or convictions. He further claims the prosecutor failed to consider all relevant factors, and instead considered factors that were irrelevant or inappropriate. Finally, he contends the rejection ...


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