On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Docket No. SVP-422-06.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued September 26, 2007
Before Judges Lisa and Lihotz.
Appellant, L.C., appeals from Judge Perretti's October 16, 2006 order continuing his civil commitment in a secure facility as a sexually violent predator pursuant to the New Jersey Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24 to -27.38. Appellant argues that the judge erred in continuing his commitment because the State failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that he was subject to continued commitment as a sexually violent predator. In essence appellant contends there was insufficient basis for the judge to credit the testimony and opinion of the State's psychiatrist.*fn1 We reject this argument and affirm substantially for the reasons set forth by Judge Perretti in her oral opinion of October 16, 2006.
Appellant is now fifty-four years old. In 1985, appellant's nine-year-old daughter, V.C., revealed that appellant had been sexually assaulting her on an ongoing basis during her weekend visits with him. Defendant and V.C.'s mother were divorced. Appellant admitted to law enforcement authorities that he engaged in this conduct with his daughter for about one year. He acknowledged performing oral sex on her and inserting objects into her anus, under the guise of playing doctor. He admitted experiencing orgasm on many occasions, and said he viewed his daughter as his lover, who took the place of his wife.
Appellant also informed the police of many other victims of his sexual improprieties. In all, he identified sixteen other victims, all females between the ages of five and fourteen years. He provided specific information about them and about his sexual improprieties with them. He acknowledged that he engaged in these activities with these victims over about a four-year period. He engaged in various sexual activities, which included vaginal and anal penetration. He sometimes enticed his victims by the ruse of playing doctor. He sometimes directed his victims to dress in his wife's nightgown or other clothing. He reported engaging in vaginal intercourse with some of the victims on some occasions.
Appellant selected as victims young girls known to him. He groomed the victims and their parents based upon his status as V.C.'s father. He usually engaged in the sexual activities in his home, but sometimes in the park or when he took them swimming. He viewed the sexual activity as consensual and considered the victims his lovers. He believed they enjoyed the activity and felt that no one got hurt. Indeed, he taught his daughter to ask him to make love to her.
Appellant later revealed that he recalled as a teenager and adult having urges to "walk the streets" looking for a child to be with. He roamed only familiar streets because it was not part of his method to attempt to contact a stranger child. He also later revealed engaging in improper sexual activity with victims other than the seventeen he identified to police in 1985. He acknowledged that he abused "more girls than [he] could count."
As part of the investigation in 1985, the police interviewed V.C. and the sixteen other identified victims and confirmed the sexual abuse reported by appellant. A multi-count indictment was returned and, on December 19, 1985, appellant pled guilty to six counts of aggravated sexual assault, nine counts of sexual assault, and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. He was sentenced on April 8, 1986 to an aggregate term of forty years imprisonment with a twelve-andone-half-year parole disqualifier, to be served at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center (ADTC).
Prior to appellant's anticipated release from the ADTC, the State filed a petition on January 4, 2006 seeking his commitment under the SVPA. An order for temporary commitment was entered on January 13, 2006. On April 4, 2006, the matter came before Judge Perretti for an initial commitment hearing. An order of commitment was entered on that date based upon documents moved into evidence and "[L.C.]'s stipulation that the Petitioner's proofs prove by clear and convincing evidence that [L.C.] continues to be a sexually violent predator in need of involuntary civil commitment in a secure facility for control, care and treatment."
On October 11, 2006, Judge Perretti conducted a review hearing. The State presented the testimony of Dr. Luis Zeiguer, a psychiatrist. Documentary evidence included Dr. Zeiguer's twenty-nine page report and progress notes from the Special Treatment Unit (STU). Appellant presented no witnesses or evidence. On October 16, 2006, Judge Perretti rendered an oral opinion. Based upon her consideration of Dr. Zeiguer's testimony, which she credited, and a review of the documentary evidence, she concluded:
The evidence presented was clear and convincing. Dr. Zeiguer's testimony was uncontradicted. According to that testimony, the Respondent is predisposed to commit sexually violent acts. He has serious difficulty controlling his sexually violent behavior as appears clear from this history of a multiplicity of sexually ...