The third principle issue decided in State v. Ravi was whether based on the Supreme Court’s decision in State v. Pomianek, holding that N.J.S.A. 2C:16-1a(3) is unconstitutionally vague, the court must vacate the defendant’s third degree bias intimidation convictions. The answer was “yes.”
“In Pomianek, the Supreme Court held that N.J.S.A. 2C:16-1(a)(3) violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because it focused “on the victim’s perception and not the defendant’s intent.” Here, the State presented evidence that focused exclusively on T.C.’s perception of defendant’s conduct, not defendant’s intent. The Supreme Court explained in Pomianek the inherent danger of permitting a jury to consider evidence that focuses only on the victim’s state of mind.
The Court held in relevant part that “Under subsection (a)(3), a defendant may be found guilty of bias intimidation even if he or she had no purpose to intimidate or knowledge that his or her conduct would intimidate a person because of his or her race or color. In other words, an innocent state of mind is not a defense to a subsection (a)(3) prosecution; the defendant is culpable for his or her words or conduct that led to the victim’s reasonable perception even if that perception is mistaken.
Pursuant to the Supreme Court’s decision in Pomianek, defendant’s convictions for third degree bias intimidation, as reflected in Middlesex County Indictment No. 11-04-00596 and prosecuted pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:16-1(a)(3), are vacated and defendant’s charges are dismissed with prejudice as a matter of law. As we have explained in Section III herein, the conviction under Count 12 for second degree hindering apprehension must be vacated as a matter of law and the charge dismissed with prejudice for insufficiency of evidence. R. 3:18-1. Finally, we conclude that the evidence the State presented to prove the charges in Counts 2, 4, 6, and 8 tainted the jury’s verdict on the remaining charges, depriving defendant of his constitutional right to a fair trial. We are compelled to remand the matter for a new trial on Counts 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, and 15.”