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In re Civil Commitment of N.M.W.

November 15, 2007


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, SVP-279-02.

Per curiam.



Argued October 31, 2007

Before Judges Wefing and Lyons.

N.M.W. is civilly committed to the Special Treatment Unit (STU), which is the secure custodial facility designated for the treatment of persons in need of commitment under the Sexually Violent Predator Act, N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24 to -27.38 (SVPA). See N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.34(a). He appeals from an order of April 26, 2007, entered after the annual review required by N.J.S.A. 30:4-37.35. The order continued his commitment and provided that his next annual review shall be conducted on April 14, 2008. Oral argument on this appeal was presented on October 31, 2007. We affirm substantially for the reasons stated by Judge Perretti in her comprehensive oral opinion of April 26, 2007.

N.M.W.'s predicate offenses are detailed in this court's decision affirming his commitment pursuant to the SVPA. In re Civil Commitment of N.W., No. A-2333-02T2 (App. Div. Jan. 2, 2004) (slip op. at 4-5), certif. den., 182 N.J. 429 (2005).

N.M.W. had an extensive criminal record as a juvenile. It includes seventeen arrests and three adjudications as a delinquent. He was arrested in 1997 after forcibly raping a woman. Later in the same day, he approached another woman, forced her to perform oral sex, and then vaginally raped her. N.M.W. subsequently pled guilty to one of the sexual assaults and was sentenced to five years, with a period of parole ineligibility as prescribed by the No Early Release Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:43-7.2. While incarcerated for this sexual assault, he was sanctioned eight times for indecent exposure, two times for use of indecent language to the staff, and two times for sexual proposals or threats. During his civil commitment at the STU, N.M.W. has been placed on "modified activities program" status several times due to inappropriate sexual behavior.

Judge Perretti placed her decision on the record on April 26, 2007, after hearing and reviewing the testimony from Doctors Friedman and Kern. Dr. Kern diagnosed N.M.W. as suffering from paraphilla NOS, impulse control disorder NOS, polysubstance dependency, and anti-social personality disorder. According to the doctor's report, N.M.W. had at one time flooded his room, did not cooperate in treatment, has spent significant time in "modified activities program" status, and while in custody, N.M.W. continues to act in a grossly inappropriate manner sexually. Dr. Kern's report stated that N.M.W. has failed to acknowledge his prior acts and has incurred excessive absences in group. The doctor concluded that N.M.W. "has disorders which cause him to have serious difficulty in controlling his harmful behavior such that it is highly likely that he will not control his sexually violent behavior and will re-offend . . . ." During his testimony, the doctor stated that N.M.W. is at "severe risk" to reoffend.

Dr. Friedman also testified. He reviewed the Treatment Progress Review Committee's recommendation and report. The doctor also noted N.M.W.'s sexual acts while in STU and that N.M.W. suffers from a long term pattern of inappropriate sexual behavior. He diagnosed N.M.W. as suffering from paraphilla NOS, provisional exhibitionism, cannibis dependency, history of alcohol abuse, learning disorder NOS, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and an anti-social personality disorder. In his report, Dr. Friedman noted that N.M.W.'s "primary difficulties lie in the area of impulse control, as he has not demonstrated any extended period of time where he has adequately controlled his aggressive and sexual impulses. He is a hypersexual man who has extreme difficulty in resisting sexual urges." After reviewing the evidence and testimony before her, Judge Perretti found that the State had proven by clear and convincing evidence that N.M.W. remained a sexually violent predator requiring commitment pursuant to the SVPA.

N.M.W. argues that the State did not prove by clear and convincing evidence that he continues to be a sexually violent predator in need of commitment pursuant to the SVPA.

The scope of appellate review of judgments of civil commitment is exceedingly narrow. In re Civil Commitment of V.A., 357 N.J. Super. 55, 63 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 177 N.J. 490 (2003). An appellate court must give the "utmost deference" to the reviewing judge's determination in a commitment proceeding. In re Commitment of J.P., 339 N.J. Super. 443, 459 (App. Div. 2001) (citing State v. Fields, 77 N.J. 282, 311 (1978)). An order of commitment will be reversed only where the record reveals "a clear abuse of discretion." Ibid.

We have thoroughly reviewed the record in light of the contentions advanced on appeal. We are satisfied that the trial judge committed no clear abuse of discretion in ordering N.M.W.'s continued commitment under the SVPA as her decision is adequately supported by the record and consistent with controlling legal principles. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(A). We, therefore, affirm substantially ...

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