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State v. Denman

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

March 27, 2017

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
JAMES DENMAN, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued December 1, 2016

         On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Union County, Accusation No. 15-03-0189.

          Michael Noriega argued the cause for appellant (Bramnick, Rodriguez, Grabas, Arnold & Mangan, LLC, attorneys; Mr. Noriega, of counsel and on the briefs).

          Diana-Marie Laventure, Special Deputy Attorney General/Acting Assistant Prosecutor, argued the cause for respondent (Grace H. Park, Acting Union County Prosecutor, attorney; Ms. Laventure, of counsel and on the brief).

          Before Judges Lihotz, Hoffman and Whipple.

          OPINION

          HOFFMAN, J.A.D.

         Defendant James Denman, a former Scotch Plains police officer, appeals from his conviction for third-degree attempted misapplication of funds, N.J.S.A. 2C:21-15 and 2C:5-1. Defendant pled guilty to the charge pursuant to a plea agreement that called for him to receive a probationary term and forfeit his position as a police officer. [1] On May 22, 2015, the court sentenced defendant to a two-year term of probation and forfeiture of public office.

         On appeal, defendant presents the following arguments challenging the May 18, 2015 Law Division order, which denied his appeal of the State's rejection of his PTI application:

THE STATE'S DENIAL OF MR. DENMAN FROM PTI WAS A PATENT AND GROSS ABUSE OF DISCRETION ON MULTIPLE LEVELS AND REQUIRES THIS COURT TO REVERSE AND REMAND THIS MATTER WITH CLEAR INSTRUCTIONS TO THE PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE FOR RECONSIDERATION:
A) MR DENMAN DID NOT BREACH THE PUBLIC TRUST UNDER GUIDELINE 3(i)(4) AS THE OFFENSE DEALT WITH A PRIVATE ORGANIZATION AND WAS IN NO WAY CONNECTED TO MR DENMAN'S SEPARATE PUBLIC EMPLOYMENT.
B) THE STATE'S UNFAIR RELIANCE ON IRRELEVANT AND INAPPROPRIATE FACTORS; SUCH AS MR. DENMAN' S OCCUPATION AS A POLICE OFFICER RESULTED IN AN UNJUST REJECTION FROM THE PTI PROGRAM AND MUST BE REVERSED.
C) NOT ONLY WAS THERE A PATENT AND GROSS ABUSE OF DISCRETION BY THE PROSECUTOR, BUT THE PROSECUTOR'S DECISION COMPLETELY SUBVERTS THE GOALS UNDERLYING THE PTI PROGRAM; WHERE A TRUE EVALUATION OF THE CRITERIA WOULD REVEAL THAT MR. DENMAN IS AN IDEAL CANDIDATE FOR THE PROGRAM.

         Having reviewed the record in light of the applicable legal standards, we conclude both the prosecutor and the trial court mistakenly applied PTI Guideline 3(i). They rejected defendant's application because the charge of third-degree attempted misapplication of funds from the Police Athletic League (PAL) constituted a breach "of the public trust." This determination is erroneous. Therefore, we reverse the ...


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