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In re Civil Commitment of J.H.M.

December 09, 2003

IN THE MATTER OF THE CIVIL COMMITMENT OF J.H.M.


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, SVP-160-01.

Before Judges King, Lintner and Bilder.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: King, P.J.A.D.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued: October 16, 2003

This is an appeal from a judgment pursuant to the New Jersey Sexually Violent Predator Act (Act), N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24 to -27.38, committing J.H.M. to the Northern Regional Unit (NRU) in Kearny. We affirm the commitment which is adequately supported by the record.

I.

The Attorney General filed a petition seeking the commitment of J.H.M. under the Act on February 26, 2001. On March 6, 2001 Judge Schlosser granted the State's application for a temporary commitment order authorizing J.H.M.'s transfer to the Northern Regional Unit (NRU). On April 23, 2001 a final hearing regarding the continued commitment of J.H.M. began before Judge Freedman. At the hearing, J.H.M. challenged the constitutionality of the Act.

On June 26, 2001 Judge Freedman ordered the civil commitment of J.H.M. pursuant to the Act. In addition, Judge Freedman ordered a review hearing for June 19, 2002 of J.H.M.'s civil commitment. On appeal, we heard oral arguments regarding J.H.M. and remanded for further consideration in light of the Supreme Court's recent decision in In re the Commitment of W.Z., 173 N.J. 109 (2002).

On remand, and with the consent of counsel, Judge Freedman considered the matter on the prior record and without further testimony. He entered an order on January 15, 2003 adhering to his prior decision to favor of commitment. J.H.M. again timely filed an appeal from the January 15, 2003 order.

II.

When the Attorney General petitioned for the civil commitment of J.H.M. in February 2001, J.H.M. was serving the final month of a three-year sentence imposed in March 1999 for failure to register as a sex offender. The prior sex-related offenses that required J.H.M. to register include J.H.M.'s guilty plea to indecent exposure in 1977 and impairing the morals of a child in 1978. In 1987, J.H.M. was charged with a sexual assault on his wife's niece which took place when she was a student in his karate school he operated at the time. J.H.M. pled guilty to that charge in 1990 and was released in 1995. Approximately 18 months after his release, January 1997, J.H.M. was charged with stalking an eleven-year-old girl. The case went to trial and resulted in a hung jury the first time, and a guilty verdict at the second trial. J.H.M.'s non-sexual offenses include a guilty plea for setting a fire to recover insurance in 1979.

III.

J.H.M. raises three points on this appeal:

POINT I: WHETHER PERSONS SUBJECT TO COMMITMENT UNDER SVPA ARE ENTITLED TO MORE CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTIONS BEYOND THOSE AFFORDED BY THE STATUTE.

POINT II: WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT PROPERLY ARRIVED AT ITS DECISION TO CIVILLY COMMIT J.H.M. UNDER THE SVPA.

POINT III: WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT'S ADMISSION OF PRESENTENCE INVESTIGATION REPORTS FOR NON-SUBSTANTIVE PURPOSES CONSTITUTES ...


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