On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Docket No. SVP-99-00.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Parrillo and Baxter.
L.B.R. appeals from a judgment entered on September 20, 2007, ordering his continued civil commitment to the Special Treatment Unit (STU) under the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24 to -27.38. We affirm.
L.B.R. was born on July 18, 1950, and has been committed to the STU for custody, care and treatment since July 5, 2000. This appeal follows his seventh review hearing.
Some background is in order. L.B.R. has an extensive history of criminal behavior dating from 1972. In addition to sexual offenses, L.B.R. has been convicted of burglary, larceny, vehicle theft, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, forgery, damage to property, theft by unlawful taking, and simple assault.
Prior to committing the predicate offense in 1992, L.B.R. engaged in aberrant sexual behavior with minors on two occasions. First, L.B.R. was arrested and charged in June 1980 with the aggravated sexual assault, by digital penetration, of his twelve-year old niece. L.B.R. was convicted of sexual assault and received a three-year probationary term. Next, in November 1987, L.B.R. was charged with criminal sexual contact, terroristic threats and endangering the welfare of a child. He pled guilty to endangering the welfare of a child and received an eighteen month prison sentence. L.B.R.'s allocution revealed that he and his young victim were in his car, after having gone out for pizza, when L.B.R. touched the girl's thigh and told her he would pay her for sexual favors. There was also a second young female victim whom he propositioned but did not touch.
The predicate offense for L.B.R.'s current civil commitment occurred between April and September 1992. On at least five separate occasions, L.B.R. engaged in coerced sexual intercourse with a fourteen-year old girl. L.B.R. was arrested in September 1992 and charged with one count of sexual assault and one count of endangering the welfare of a child. Defendant entered a guilty plea to the sexual assault charge on January 24, 1994, and was sentenced to a nine-year prison term with a three-year period of parole ineligibility.
L.B.R. was scheduled for release from prison in July 2000, and the State filed a petition for SVPA commitment on July 5, 2000. A temporary order of commitment was entered on July 11, 2000, with a final hearing being scheduled for July 31, 2000. With L.B.R.'s consent, an order was entered on September 18, 2000, continuing his SVPA commitment. Review hearings were held on March 19, 2001, December 6, 2001, and June 5, 2001, at which times L.B.R.'s commitment was continued. Further review hearings took place on November 20, 2003 and November 5, 2004, when the court continued L.B.R.'s commitment.
At the conclusion of the latter hearing, Judge Freedman found "that [L.B.R.'s treatment notes] support the conclusions reached by Dr. Zeiguer that there has not been a sufficient improvement" and that L.B.R. has a "severe personality disorder." L.B.R's past conduct demonstrated "this inclination to commit sexually-oriented offenses" and that his mental abnormality, paraphilia, combined with his personality disorder "create in him a serious difficulty in controlling his sexual behavior." Rather, he is "a very dangerous person, despite his health conditions." As to L.B.R.'s treatment during the year since his prior commitment hearing, Judge Freedman concluded:
[h]is understanding of the offense cycle --is significantly less than one would reasonably expect given his time in treatment. Since he has only just recently begun to engage the treatment process, he is just now learning to identify the fundamentals of the offense cycle and to recognize cognitive, behavioral change
[H]e does not at this time have any significant relapse prevention plans or strategies. He does, however, understand the importance of abstaining from alcohol abuse. He has some basic understanding of the effects of his offenses on ...