Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Domestic Violence In New Jersey

A six-month suspension has been imposed by the New Jersey Supreme Court for conduct described by the Disciplinary Review Board

On December 13, 2018, respondent became angry when M.C., his then fiancée, confronted him at a restaurant where he was drinking alcoholic beverages with his friends. Respondent and M.C. then drove, in separate vehicles, to a parking lot near respondent’s office. Respondent began to yell and curse at M.C., and then grabbed her head and “smashed it against the [vehicle] door frame twice.” Respondent then tried to go inside his office but, after M.C. screamed that she was bleeding, he entered his vehicle and fled. A
police officer dispatched to the scene observed that M.C. was bleeding from the top left side of her head and called an ambulance, which transported her to a hospital for treatment. Respondent admitted that, during the incident, he was under the influence of alcohol.

After indictment

On January 6, 2020 respondent entered a guilty plea to one count of third-degree aggravated assault, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1b(12). At the January 6, 2020 plea hearing, respondent provided a sworn allocution that he became involved in a physical altercation with M.C. and that, as a result, he caused M.C. significant and severe bodily injury. Specifically, respondent admitted that he caused M.C. to sustain a “gash to her head.”

Criminal sentencing

In mitigation, Judge Carter-Latimer found that respondent was likely to respond affirmatively to probationary treatment. She acknowledged two letters in the file from the victim, dated six months earlier, wherein M.C. stated that she did not feel that she was a victim; that respondent is a “good man;” and that she had hoped that the matter would not “get this far;” and asked the Court permission to see respondent. Respondent likewise requested permission to see the victim. A no-contact provision had been part of respondent’s pretrial release order, but Judge Carter-Latimer determined not to include the no-contact provision as a condition of respondent’s sentence. Respondent further was ordered to pay mandatory fines and costs.

The victim supported him in a letter submitted in the bar proceeding

In addition, respondent submitted a letter from the victim, addressed to the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, in which she stated that she lied to the police about the incident because she was upset after she found respondent with another woman in the restaurant. She explained that the parties entered into a “screaming match” outside his office; she “went at [respondent] and we struggled;” and then she “fell into” the car door because she was wearing high heels. The victim stated that respondent did not hurt her intentionally, and that her injury was minor. Respondent also submitted a January 14, 2020 statement from the victim in which she asserted that respondent did not assault her; the incident was a misunderstanding due to her own insecurities and jealousy; and respondent is not a criminal.

DRB on sanction

We...accord no weight to respondent’s “after-the-fact” attempts to undermine his criminal conduct, which endeavors are contrary to his sworn guilty plea allocution and conviction. It was disconcerting that respondent offered statements from the victim to prove that he did not intend to cause her injury. We were tempted to inquire whether respondent attempted to convince us that he lied during his sworn allocution in Superior Court, and that he did not commit an act of domestic violence, despite his guilty plea to exactly that.

In any event, respondent’s behavior in this respect is troubling. To be sure, society has taken a stricter view of domestic violence, and has become more cognizant of the serious and pervasive impact that perpetrators have on their victims, and our culture as a whole. These significant aggravating factors, thus, warrant the enhancement of the discipline to a six-month suspension.

He had failed to report the charges to the Office of Attorney Ethics as required. (Mike Frisch)

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