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State v. J.E.J.

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

June 14, 2013

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
J.E.J., Defendant-Appellant.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted June 3, 2013

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Morris County, Indictment No. 03-03-285.

Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (Philip Lago, Designated Counsel, on the brief).

Fredric M. Knapp, Acting Morris County Prosecutor, attorney for respondent (Paula Jordao, Special Deputy Attorney General/Acting Assistant Prosecutor, on the brief).

Before Judges Fasciale and Maven.

PER CURIAM

Defendant appeals from a December 5, 2011 order denying his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). Defendant argues primarily that his trial counsel[1] was ineffective by failing to produce testimony at trial from his former trial counsel and a detective. We affirm.

In April 2006, a jury found defendant guilty of second-degree sexual assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2b. In August 2006, the court sentenced defendant to a seven-year prison term subject to the No Early Release Act (NERA), N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2. We affirmed the conviction in an unpublished opinion, State v. J.E.J., No. A-2478-06 (App. Div. May 12, 2010), and the Supreme Court denied certification, State v. J.E.J., 203 N.J. 438 (2010). We summarized the facts in our unpublished opinion:

Defendant married Charlotte[2] in May 1996; her daughter Karen was six years old. Defendant and Karen had a close father-daughter relationship. Having known him since she was two years old, Karen thought he was her biological father and did not learn to the contrary until she was ten years old. Karen testified, however, that their relationship changed when she turned eleven years of age. At that time, defendant began to touch her in inappropriate places. Charlotte also discovered a letter written by defendant to Karen in which he professed his love for her. Charlotte called the police.
At trial, Karen testified that defendant began "touching [her] inner thigh, telling [her] stuff like, I love you, [and] hugs that just weren't like before." She said that he usually touched her inner thigh when the family was sitting in the bedroom watching television together and that such behavior occurred on more than fifteen occasions. A few times after defendant did this, he approached her and told her that "it was okay that was just the way he felt for [her] and things like that." He also told her that "he felt like [she] was telling him, it was okay, and that he could show his feelings for [her] and that there wasn't anything wrong with it."
Karen also testified that defendant's hugs became tighter and more aggressive as if he was trying to make her stay with him. She also recalled a particular instance when defendant tried to "french kiss" her and she "just closed [her] mouth and gritted [her] teeth to try to prevent his tongue from going inside [her] mouth." On another occasion, defendant, wearing only a towel and underwear, pulled Karen's sleeping bag off and her pants fell. She stated that defendant told her he was not trying to do anything, but he just wanted to touch her. This made her uncomfortable, so she kicked him away, arose and backed away from him. As a result of defendant's actions, Karen began to fear being around him, but she never told her mother. She was afraid it would affect her parents' relationship.
On July 21, 2002, while preparing to take Karen and the other two children to meet defendant at a soccer game in the park, Charlotte picked up a pair of defendant's pants and a letter fell out of his wallet. The letter was written in Spanish. She recognized defendant's handwriting and the paper he used. She had used the same paper a few days earlier. The contents of the letter, as translated by Detective Robert Meoqui, are as follows:
Nena[3] forgive my conduct but this is not strange for you. Because [] not speak to you, not say goodbye, not give you the good mornings, not play, not be by your side, not kiss you, we didn't last the years this is something stupid between a father and daughter. I do this thinking that it is the only path that I have in order not touch you, not to kiss you. But I am mistaken all this I need the only thing I achieve ...

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