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State v. Hughes

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

November 22, 2013

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
JOSEPH A. HUGHES, Defendant-Appellant.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted September 11, 2013

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County, Municipal Appeal No. 49-2010.

Joseph A. Hughes, appellant pro se.

Warren W. Faulk, Camden County Prosecutor, attorney for respondent (Jason Magid, Assistant Prosecutor, of counsel and on the brief).

Before Judges Sapp-Peterson and Hoffman.

PER CURIAM

In this pro se appeal, defendant Joseph A. Hughes appeals from his conviction in the municipal court and again on appeal in the Law Division, after a trial de novo, of two counts of simple assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1(a)(1). We affirm.

According to the evidence presented at trial, the convictions arose out of a March 17, 2008 incident that occurred while his grandchildren were preparing to have lunch at their father's home. To the grandchildren, defendant appeared to have been in a bad mood and he had instructed them to do certain chores. He became upset with one grandchild, R.H., when she asked him what to do with her father's work clothes, which had been left on the table that was being set for lunch. Defendant grabbed R.H.'s arm and shook her arm so hard that she fell striking her head, causing a big lump to develop on her head. He then threatened S.H., grabbed his left arm, and jerked his arm, after S.H. told defendant he did not like Sloppy Joes. S.H. testified that his arm was red and he had two pinched nerves as a result of defendant's actions.

The children's mother reported the incident to police and following an investigation, defendant was charged with two counts of simple assault several days later. Defendant pled not guilty to the charges and trial proceeded in the Waterford Township Municipal Court over four non-consecutive days that took place between January 20, 2009 and October 15, 2010. At its conclusion, Judge Craig Larsen credited the testimony of the three children, two of whom were the victims. He found their testimony "clear, concise, believable, and honest." He additionally found that "the physical evidence corresponds exactly to what the children's statements were."

The judge imposed fines, penalties and a thirty-day jail term on each offense, which the court suspended conditioned upon defendant completing anger management treatment. In addition, the judge imposed a two-year probationary term, and ordered family counseling.

Defendant appealed his convictions to the Law Division. While the appeal was pending, the State discovered that portions of the municipal court record were unintelligible, and pursuant to Rule 3:23-8, requested a plenary hearing to supplement the record, which the court granted. The hearing was conducted before Judge Ronald Freeman at which S.H. and R.H. testified.

Upon completion of the plenary hearing, Judge Michael J. Kassel conducted the trial de novo based upon the municipal court record and the supplemental record from the plenary hearing. Based upon his review of the record, he was satisfied the State proved the charges against defendant beyond a reasonable doubt, and found defendant guilty of the charges. He sentenced defendant, imposing the same fines, penalties, suspended custodial sentence and conditions as the municipal judge. However, with respect to the two-year probationary sentence, he ordered that it would be suspended if defendant completed his anger management treatment in six months. The present appeal followed.

Defendant has not complied with Rule 2:6-2(a)(5) by setting forth his legal argument with "appropriate point headings into as many parts as there are points to be argued." However, as best as we can glean from the brief, defendant alleges: (1) the municipal judge was not impartial and failed to order the State to release exculpatory evidence to him; (2) the municipal judge failed to stay the proceedings until the court reporting machine was working and made erroneous evidentiary rulings; (3) the Law Division judge who presided over the plenary hearing, erroneously permitted a witness to testify, who had not testified in the municipal court ...


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