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In re Civil Commitment of S.P.S.


March 24, 2008


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, No. SVP-213-01.

Per curiam.



Argued October 31, 2007

Before Judges Wefing and Lyons.

S.P.S. appeals from a judgment entered on March 15, 2007, continuing his commitment as a sexually violent predator under the Sexually Violent Predator Act ("SVPA"), N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24 to -27.38. After reviewing the record in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we affirm.

S.P.S. was initially committed as a sexually violent predator in 2001, following his completion of the custodial term imposed upon him after he pled guilty to one count of fourth-degree criminal sexual contact, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-3(b), and one count of third-degree endangering the welfare of a child, N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(a).

This is not the first time S.P.S. has appealed to this court. In 2004 we affirmed a prior order continuing his commitment as a sexually violent predator. In re Civil Commitment of S.P.S., No. A-540-02T2 (App. Div. Oct. 22, 2004). Within our opinion we noted that S.P.S. had a more than twenty-five-year history of committing sexual offenses with young boys. We also noted that while confined at the Special Treatment Unit S.P.S. had been found in possession of sexually explicit material involving young boys.

After that affirmance, a review hearing was conducted on March 6 and March 12, 2007. Three witnesses testified at that hearing--Michael R. McAllister, D.O., a psychiatrist, and Brian Friedman, Psy.D., a psychologist, testified for the State, and Timothy P. Foley, Ph.D., a psychologist, testified for S.P.S.

Dr. McAllister interviewed S.P.S. four days before the hearing commenced. Dr. McAllister was familiar with S.P.S., having evaluated him in connection with the 2002 review hearing. Dr. McAllister testified that S.P.S.'s extensive criminal history involving young boys indicated a "deeply ingrained" deviance, with a high degree of impulsivity and very poor impulse control. He also related that S.P.S. had informed him that there had been many more victims than were reflected in his criminal history. S.P.S. also told Dr. McAllister that he would "very carefully plan and very carefully groom" the young boys he selected and that he placed himself in positions in which he would have the opportunity to meet young boys. S.P.S. found the process of pursuing these boys to be very gratifying. Dr. McAllister also testified that while S.P.S. had made a very poor adjustment when he was first committed to the STU, he had substantially increased his treatment participation since the time of our earlier opinion affirming his continued commitment at the STU. S.P.S. had not, however, completed the treatment module on substance abuse, had not taken the program on arousal reconditioning, and had not completed various assignments given to him. Dr. McAllister diagnosed S.P.S. as suffering from paraphilia, not otherwise specified. Dr. McAllister based this diagnosis on S.P.S.'s history of "deviant sexual fantasies, the grooming, [and] the sexual behavior with both prepubital, paripubital and postpubital boys." Dr. McAllister also diagnosed a history of major depression, substance abuse, and personality disorder, not otherwise specified, with prominent narcissistic features. Dr. McAllister described S.P.S. as having a significant exhibitionistic quality, an overly-dramatic quality, an over-emotional quality, and a very easily-ruffled quality and a tendency to perceive and to promote conflicts.

Dr. McAllister was of the opinion that S.P.S. remained a high risk to re-offend if he were not confined in a secure facility for treatment.

In the course of his testimony, Dr. McAllister noted S.P.S.'s physical condition, including that he suffered from atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, a weakened heart, elevated cholesterol and was an insulin-dependent diabetic. Dr. McAllister specifically testified that in his opinion these physical conditions did not reduce the risk of S.P.S. committing sexual offenses.

Dr. Friedman was a member of the Treatment Progress Review Committee ("TPRC") that reviewed S.P.S.'s progress and treatment at the STU. He noted that although invited to do so, S.P.S. declined to meet with the TPRC in connection with preparation for this hearing although he had done so in the past. Dr. Friedman stated that S.P.S. was in Phase 3 of treatment at the STU and had not yet completed a number of programs, including anger management, family of origin and substance abuse. He also noted that although S.P.S. had completed the module on victim empathy, it was recommended that he retake it, in light of his evident inability to comprehend the impact of his actions upon his many victims. Dr. Friedman diagnosed S.P.S. as suffering from pedophilia, paraphilia NOS, and narcissistic personality disorder with antisocial features.

Dr. Foley testified on behalf of S.P.S. He said that in his opinion, S.P.S. was not highly likely to commit sexually violent offenses if he were to be released. Dr. Foley based his opinion on S.P.S.'s age, his medical condition, his view that there was some evidence that S.P.S.'s treatment at the STU was having an effect and the level of supervision to which S.P.S. would be subject if he were to be released. Dr. Foley admitted in cross-examination that his understanding of S.P.S.'s medical condition came solely from what S.P.S. reported to him.

After the hearing concluded, Judge Philip Freedman placed a comprehensive one-hundred-page opinion upon the record. Within that opinion, he set forth S.P.S.'s individual history and treatment record. He correctly stated the applicable legal principles and applied them to S.P.S. Within his opinion he set forth those factors which led him to reject the opinion of Dr. Foley that S.P.S. was no longer highly likely to reoffend.

The judgment under review is affirmed substantially for the reasons stated by Judge Freedman in his oral opinion of March 15, 2007.


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