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Appeals court refuses to lift restraining order against Bergen firefighter whose ex began dating his boss

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

EXCLUSIVE REPORT: A state appeals court refused to suspend a restraining order against a Bergen County firefighter and military reservist who sent a “barrage” of harassing texts and emails to his ex-girlfriend after she began dating his boss.

The woman testified that she and her former boyfriend had an “on again, off again” relationship for three years while he was married to someone else.

She ended things in August 2012, she said, telling him she “was not willing to wait any longer.”

The woman also described him as on a “downward spiral” while being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and alcoholism following tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Because they’d been very close, she said, she told him that she was willing to remain friends, and that he told her he understood. She refused his requests to meet but kept in touch through texts and email.

Things changed when she began dating a superior officer in his department.

Over the course of the next several months, the Appellate Division ruling says, his “escalating anger and recriminations had made her afraid of him.”

She sought the restraining order “after a particularly vulgar and offensive barrage of text and voice mail messages over the course of a day in March 2013,” it says.

“[W]hatever treatment it is that he says he’s been receiving, he’s either not following it or it’s not working because it’s done nothing but escalate, and now I’m concerned to be at my house,” the woman told a judge in Hackensack.

He, in turn, testified that he’d apologized the day before she sought the restraining order, “saying he was ashamed of what he had said and that he did not mean any of it,” the appeals court decision says.

It continues:

“He explained he had just days before learned plaintiff was ending their relationship and seeing his lieutenant, and that he was still in love with her and very hurt.

“After seeing [the woman’s] new boyfriend at work, he had gone to a bar, gotten drunk and angry and telephoned plaintiff and said a lot of things he regretted. He told the judge he had no intention of ever contacting [her] again.”

Cross-examined by her attorney, the firefighter admitted sending texts four months earlier “acknowledging his awareness” of her new relationship.

After listening to the voice mail messages and reviewing the texts, the local judge ruled that the firefighter’s behavior “constituted harassment.”

It wasn’t an “alcohol-fueled emotional outburst,” the judge said, but, rather, “uncontrollable rage about the [woman] moving on and being in a different relationship,” which he “could not stop or get under control until a restraining order was entered.”

“This is not a narrow window of time,” the judge ruled. “This is bad behavior, harassing communications, vulgar communications, angry communications, jealous communications that go over a period of months.

“I know that the defendant has every intention of not contacting her, but I also think that it’s quite possible that the defendant will find himself under the influence of alcohol again, and I think he’ll need the deterrent of the restraining order.”

The appeals court, in a decision released on Friday, found that the order was necessary “to protect the victim from an immedate danger or to prevent further abuse.”

The judge “obviously found” the firefighter’s credibility “wanting,” the higher court said.

“He claimed that he had a regrettable but understandable reaction to news that the woman he had been seeing for three years had broken off their relationship to take up with his boss,” the appeals judges wrote.

The woman, they said, “painted a different picture of a former boyfriend who refused to let go, whose hurt and anger continued to escalate to alarming heights months after learning [she] had moved on.”

His arguments against the order “are without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion,” the appeals judges concluded.

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