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In re Application of Piasecki

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

July 22, 2013



Argued: January 9, 2013

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Mercer County, Docket No. 2011-36.

Arnold M. Mellk argued the cause for appellant Christopher Peter Piasecki (Mellk O'Neil, attorneys; Mr. Mellk, on the briefs).

William P. Fisher, Assistant Prosecutor, argued the cause for respondent State of New Jersey (Joseph L. Bocchini, Jr., Mercer County Prosecutor, attorney; Mr. Fisher, of counsel and on the brief).

Before Judges Axelrad and Sapp-Peterson.


Petitioner Christopher Peter Piasecki appeals from the Law Division's March 19, 2012 order denying the appeal of his application for a firearm purchaser identification card and/or handgun purchase permit (firearms card). We affirm the order as modified.

On August 23, 1994, petitioner was arrested and charged in Lawrence Township with simple assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(a)(1), "by grabbing [his girlfriend] with his hands around her neck and face and causing injury, red marks and a headache [for] which she requested to seek medical attention . . . ." The complaint further reflected the matter as "Domestic Violence, " and provided for no contact between the parties. On April 4, 1995, the charge was dismissed in municipal court.

As a result of events occurring the evening of October 5, 1995, Plainsboro Township police arrested petitioner and charged him the next day with stalking, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10(b); burglary, N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2(a)(1); harassment, N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4(c); and defiant trespass, N.J.S.A. 2C:18-3(b). According to the charges, petitioner forcefully entered [his girlfriend's] residence and searched through rooms and closets, after he had repeatedly followed her, waited outside her residence, watched her, and telephoned her. The police characterized this as a "Domestic Violence" matter, so they seized petitioner's firearms and his firearms card.

The Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office then filed a petition in the Family Part seeking the forfeiture of petitioner's firearms and his firearms identification card.[1] At the hearing on November 17, 1995, the assistant prosecutor read into the record a letter from petitioner's attorney, [2] stating, "Consistent with our telephone conversation this afternoon, please be advised that [petitioner] waives his right to appear on November 17th at the forfeiture proceeding where your office is seeking to obtain a forfeiture of any and all weapons owned or possessed by him, and also to revoke any firearms licenses that he may hold." The assistant prosecutor requested an order forfeiting the weapons and prohibiting possession in the future. Judge Nicholas Stroumtsos signed an order dated December 4, 1995 (FO-12-532-96) directing that the weapons and other items listed on Schedule A were forfeited to the State and that "all N.J. firearms licenses held by [petitioner] are revoked and it is further ordered that [petitioner] is forbidden to apply for any said licenses or possess in any way, any firearms until further order of this Court." (Emphasis added).

On December 21, 1995, petitioner was indicted by a Middlesex County grand jury on charges of third-degree stalking, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-10, in connection with the October 5, 1995 incident. On February 1, 1996, upon motion of the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office, the Assignment Judge entered an order dismissing the indictment. The prosecutor explained that the victim signed an affidavit stating she declined to pursue the matter, but the complaints were nevertheless presented to the grand jury, which returned the one-count indictment based on the officer's testimony. The prosecutor further represented that:

Review of the evidence presented to the Grand Jury fails to reveal a sufficient factual/legal predicate for the charge of stalking. Among other things, the proofs do not establish "following" or a "course of conduct" or any basis for an apprehension of injury of death. The Grand Jury proofs are confined to a single, non-violent incident and do not present a stalking case. At most, they support a disorderly persons charge of harassment.

The prosecutor remanded the companion disorderly persons complaint, which charged petitioner with harassment and defiant trespass, to the Plainsboro Municipal Court for disposition. On February 28, 1996, petitioner pled guilty in municipal court to Plainsboro local ...

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