Argued November 12, 2014.
Approved for Publication November 21, 2014.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Indictment Nos. 13-03-00374 and 13-08-01118.
Brian J. Neary argued the cause for appellant (Law Offices Brian J. Neary, attorneys; Mr. Neary, on the brief).
Annmarie Cozzi, Senior Assistant Prosecutor, argued the cause for respondent ( John L. Molinelli, Bergen County Prosecutor, attorney for respondent; Ms. Cozzi, of counsel and on the brief; Elizabeth R. Rebein, Assistant Prosecutor, on the brief).
Before Judges FISHER, NUGENT and MANAHAN. The opinion of the court was delivered by FISHER, P.J.A.D.
[438 N.J.Super. 158] FISHER, P.J.A.D.
We granted leave to appeal to examine an order which denied defendant's motion to recuse the Bergen County judiciary from presiding over this matter. The problem at hand arose when the State advised it would offer evidence at trial that defendant threatened the lives of two Bergen judges. Not because we possess any doubt about the trial judge's ability to fairly and impartially preside over this matter, but because, in the final analysis, " justice must satisfy the appearance of justice," Offutt v. United States, 348 U.S. 11, 14, 75 S.Ct. 11, 13, 99 L.Ed. 11, 16 (1954), we reverse and remand to the assignment judge for entry of an appropriate order.
On February 29, 2012, defendant was charged in a Complaint-Summons with criminal mischief, a disorderly-persons offense, N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3(a)(1), based on an allegation that he spray-painted anti-Semitic graffiti on a Hackensack synagogue. The next day defendant was charged in a Complaint-Warrant with: first-degree aggravated arson of a Rutherford synagogue, N.J.S.A. 2C:17-1(a); first-degree bias intimidation, N.J.S.A. 2C:16-1(a); [438 N.J.Super. 159] and first-degree conspiracy to commit aggravated arson, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2(a)(2) and N.J.S.A. 2C:17-1(a). He was also charged that same day, by way of another Complaint-Warrant, with fourth-degree bias intimidation. The day after that, defendant was charged in another Complaint-Summons with the disorderly persons offense of criminal mischief at a Maywood
synagogue, and fourth-degree bias intimidation, and in another Complaint-Warrant with two counts of first-degree conspiracy to commit aggravated arson.
On March 2, 2012, bail was set by the criminal presiding judge (hereafter " presiding judge" ) at $2,500,000. Defendant's motion for a bail reduction was denied by another judge (hereafter " bail judge" ) on April 20, 2012. Defendant moved for leave to appeal, and we summarily reduced the amount of bail to $1,000,000; we also remanded for consideration of other appropriate bail conditions.
Before the remand proceedings could occur, defendant was charged in another Complaint-Warrant with: first-degree conspiracy to murder a Bergen County Assistant Prosecutor, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2(a)(1) and N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3; third-degree conspiracy to possess a firearm for an unlawful purpose, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2(a)(1) and N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4; and third-degree terroristic ...