NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted August 13, 2013
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Indictment No. 12-02-0326.
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (Laura B. Lasota, Assistant Deputy Public Defender, of counsel and on the brief).
John L. Molinelli, Bergen County Prosecutor, attorney for respondent (David A. Malfitano, Assistant Prosecutor, of counsel and on the brief).
Before Judges Lihotz and Guadagno.
Defendant Craig W. Willis appeals from an order denying his challenge to the prosecutor's rejection of his application for admission into the county pre-trial intervention (PTI) program. On appeal defendant argues:
THE PROGRAM DIRECTOR'S REJECTION OF MR. WILLIS' PTI APPLICATION CONSTITUTED A PATENT AND GROSS ABUSE OF DISCRETION. THEREFORE, THE TRIAL JUDGE ERRED IN AFFIRMING THE DIRECTOR'S DECISION TO REJECT MR. WILLIS.
A. The Director's Rejection Was Based Solely on One Factor, the Nature of the Offense, and Failed to Consider Several Relevant Factors in Favor of Admission into the PTI Program.
B. The Rejection Amounted to a Clear Error of Judgment and Clearly Subverted the Goals Underlying the PTI Program.
After receiving complaints from residents of drug trafficking, Elmwood Park Narcotic Enforcement Unit detectives were patrolling the area around a public housing project. The police observed defendant interact with an unidentified man in what they believed was a hand-to-hand narcotics transaction. The detectives then followed defendant's vehicle, observing him nearly strike another vehicle on the highway, and effectuated a traffic stop. The police arrested defendant for possession of one-hundred glassine envelopes, or a brick, of heroin. Defendant was later indicted, charged with the third-degree offenses of possession of a controlled dangerous substance (heroin), N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10a(1), and possession of heroin with intent to distribute, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5a(1) and 5b(3).
Defendant's application for admission to the county PTI program was reviewed by the Criminal Division PTI Director and the Senior Probation Officer, and rejected. The written rejection discussed the nature of the offense and concluded "the early rehabilitative services and minimal supervisory treatment offered by the PTI Program would not serve the interest of the State[.]" Defendant moved for judicial review of the denial of his application, arguing the PTI Director failed to ...