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State v. Mullen

Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Criminal Part, Middlesex

February 27, 2018

STATE OF NEW JERSEY Plaintiff
v.
THERESA MULLEN Defendant

          Edward Kologi, Defense Attorney

          BEFORE: Hon, Alberto Rivas, A J.S.C.

          OPINION

          HON. ALBERTO RIVAS, ASSIGNMENT JUDGE

         On February 2, 2017, Theresa Mullen ("Mullen") went to her children's school, St. Theresa's, located in Kenilworth. Mullen's behavior at the school resulted in criminal charges against her. Specifically, she was charged with violating N.J.S.A. 2C:18-3(b), which states:

b. Defiant trespasser. A person commits a petty disorderly persons offense if, knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so, he enters or remains in any place as to which notice against trespass is given by;
(1) Actual communication to the actor; or
(2) Posting in a manner prescribed by law or reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders; or
(3) Fencing or other enclosure manifestly designed to exclude intruders.

         The trial on the charges took place on January 24-25, 2018, before this court. This opinion represents the court's findings of fact and verdict.

         The issue at the trial was whether Mullen violated 2C:18-3(b)(1). In order to find Mullen guilty, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that "the defendant was directly advised against trespass." State in Interest of L.E.W., 239 N.J.Super. 65, 71-72 (App. Div. 1990). State v. Brennan, 344 N J. Super, 136 (App, Div, 2001) establishes the parameters in evaluating the evidence in this case to determine whether Mullen was guilty of violating the law.

         In Brennan, a citizen attending a city council meeting became disruptive. He was advised that the police would be called to remove him from the meeting; Brennan's defiant response was that he welcomed police involvement. Brennan, 344 NJ. Super, at 139. The police responded, and Brennan refused to leave after the police told him he had to leave the meeting. Id. Following his refusal, they arrested Brennan, Id. at 142. The court noted that Brennan had focused his defense on whether he had been disruptive and whether City officials acted properly toward him. Id. at 143. The court found that when evaluating a charge of defiant trespassing, the focus was not on die behavior of the municipal officials but instead on the reasonableness of the police behavior and defendant's response to the requests of the police- Id. With this background, the court will review the proofs at trial.

         Prior to February 2, 2017, Mullen and her family were involved in contentious litigation with St. Theresa's School. A civil lawsuit was pending at the time. On February 1, 2017, the Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Newark, which includes St- Theresa's School, wrote a letter to Mullen and her husband. In the letter, the Superintendent quoted a portion of the St. Theresa's Parent/Student Handbook, which stated:

If a parent implicates St, Theresa's School in a legal matter, or names St. Theresa's as a defendant in a civil matter, the parent/guardian will be requested to remove their children immediately from the school.

         A copy of the page of the handbook, which contained this provision, was included with the letter, along with a copy of the acknowledgment of receipt of the handbook form signed ...


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