STATE OF NEW JERSEY IN THE INTEREST OF A.M., a minor.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 16, 2013
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Union County, Docket Nos. FJ-20-1867-10 and FJ-20-1915-10.
Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (Frederick P. Sisto, Designated Counsel, on the brief).
Grace H. Park, Acting Union County Prosecutor, attorney for respondent (Sara B. Liebman, Special Deputy Attorney General/ Acting Assistant Prosecutor, of counsel and on the brief).
Before Judges Ashrafi and St. John.
Juvenile A.M. appeals from two adjudications of delinquency following trials by two different judges on charges that he assaulted a teacher in his school and, later the same day, a police officer in front of his school. After he was adjudicated delinquent on both complaints, he entered into a plea agreement with the State pertaining to a third complaint charging him with robbery of a cell phone from another boy. In accordance with the plea agreement, he was sentenced on all three charges to eighteen months in the Juvenile Intensive Supervision Program, to write letters of apology and an essay, and to pay mandatory money penalties. On appeal, he argues there was insufficient evidence for his convictions on the two charges of aggravated assault. We affirm.
The complaint pertaining to the teacher was tried before Judge Frederic McDaniel. The teacher testified that he was a librarian at the juvenile's school and was also assigned to teach classes. On April 21, 2010, at about noon, students arrived late to a class and were unruly and disobedient. They did not heed his repeated instruction that they take their seats and be quiet. The juvenile was walking around the room, shouting and making gestures. The librarian spoke directly to the juvenile several times and asked him to take his seat. The juvenile cursed at the librarian and threatened him verbally. He then approached and shoved the librarian backwards with his hands. He put up his fists and threatened to "deck" the teacher.
The librarian told the juvenile to go to the office. The juvenile ignored him and continued to "shadowbox" and make noise. The librarian attempted to phone the main office, but was not able to get a response. Nevertheless, he pretended to be talking to someone. The juvenile then left the classroom.
The librarian did not know the juvenile's name because he was new to his class. After the juvenile left, he had the other students sign an attendance sheet, and only one student's name was unsigned, the juvenile's. The librarian reported the incident to school officials and later that day spoke to the police. Based on the attendance sheet, the juvenile was identified and charged in a complaint with simple assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(a), which was later amended to fourth-degree aggravated assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(b)(5)(d), because the victim was the juvenile's teacher.
At the trial, the librarian identified the juvenile as the student who had defied his directives, threatened him, and shoved him in the classroom. The defense did not dispute that the librarian had been shoved but challenged his ability to identify the student who had done it. The librarian also acknowledged that he had not been physically injured in the incident. The school principal was the only other witness at the trial. The defense called her to testify about the juvenile's daily classroom schedule, but she had no direct knowledge of the incident. Judge McDaniel found the librarian's testimony and in-court identification credible and found the juvenile guilty of aggravated assault by attempting to cause bodily injury to the librarian.
The trial pertaining to the assault on the police officer was held before Judge Roberto Alcazar. The officer testified he was assigned to duty outside the school on the afternoon of April 21, 2010. As he parked his vehicle at about 2:45 p.m., he saw two juveniles sitting on a wall across the street from the school. The juveniles were cursing and shouting at passersby. The officer got out of his vehicle, approached the juveniles, and asked them to leave the area. They refused and defiantly told him he had no right to order them to leave and that he should leave. The officer testified that the juveniles were cursing at him and continued to act in a disorderly manner. In court, the officer identified A.M. as one of the juveniles.
The juveniles eventually got off the wall. The officer took A.M. by the arm and attempted to lead him away from the area. After the officer released his arm, A.M. continued to walk, still cursing. At a distance of about ten or fifteen feet from the officer, the juvenile turned, took a cell phone out of his pocket, and threw it at the officer, striking him in the eye. The officer then pursued and arrested A.M., and he was charged with ...