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State v. Rodrigues

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

November 13, 2013

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

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued September 23, 2013

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Indictment No. 10-12-1751.

Jeffrey D. Catrambone argued the cause for appellant (Sciarra & Catrambone, L.L.C., attorneys; Matthew R. Curran, of counsel and on the brief).

Nancy A. Hulett, Special Deputy Attorney General/Acting Assistant Prosecutor, argued the cause for respondent (Andrew C. Carey, Acting Middlesex County Prosecutor, attorney; Ms. Hulett, of counsel and on the brief).

Before Judges Yannotti, Ashrafi and Leone.

PER CURIAM

Defendant Paulo Rodrigues appeals from his conviction by a jury on criminal charges arising from two years of anonymous harassment of a woman he had dated. At his trial, defendant did not dispute that the woman was subjected to extremely offensive and threatening communications. The issue was whether the police correctly identified him as the offender. We can find no valid ground to set aside the jury's determination that defendant was the offender, and also no other trial error leading to reversal of his conviction.

The victim testified at the trial that she and defendant grew up in the same neighborhood and had been good friends. In the fall of 2005, they began a romantic relationship at a time when the victim's marriage was breaking up. Her husband left the marital home about that time and moved into the home of another woman. Defendant and the victim then dated for about two years. The victim ended the relationship in the latter part of 2007. In her mind, the relationship ended amicably, and she continued to communicate with defendant.

In February 2008, the victim began receiving anonymous threatening messages on her cell phone. She changed her cell number within a few days and did not give the new number to defendant until several weeks later. In the intervening weeks, she received a number of harassing calls at her place of employment. The victim did not recognize the voice on the calls. At the time of the incidents, she told the police it sounded like a female voice. At defendant's trial, she testified it sounded like a robot. In 2008, the victim also received threatening emails that said she was being watched and would be raped or killed. The only person that the victim could imagine might be responsible was her ex-husband's girlfriend, but she had no specific reason to suspect her.

In August 2008, the victim moved to a different residence. For a brief time, the harassment stopped, but in December 2008, she received more threatening emails. By the beginning of 2009, threatening and vulgar letters about her had been sent to her neighbors as well as her place of employment.

In the middle of 2009, the victim briefly resumed dating defendant. During the approximate two-month duration of the renewed relationship, the victim did not receive any harassing communications. In about October 2009, the victim again ended the relationship with defendant. Unlike the first breakup, this time defendant expressed anger. There were no further open communications between the two. In December 2009, the victim began receiving harassing and threatening communications again.

In March and April 2010, the victim received a multitude of harassing phone calls and emails, most of which originated from a pre-paid cell phone with a 908 area code number. From June to August 2010, she received many more harassing phone calls and emails, almost all of which originated from a pre-paid phone with a 732 area code number. The police attempted to learn the identity of the person who had purchased the two pre-paid phones, initially to no avail.

Most of the harassing phone calls and emails contained threats of violence and very vulgar disparagement of the victim, but no clues as to who might be the offender. However, some of the communications contained private information about the victim that she had revealed to only a select few family members and close friends. The circle of people with relevant knowledge included defendant and her ex-husband. At the trial, the victim testified about the ...


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