On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, SVP-63-00.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Sapp-Peterson and Messano.
B.R. is a resident of the Special Treatment Unit (STU), the secure custodial facility designated for the treatment of persons in need of involuntarily civil commitment pursuant to the Sexually Violent Predator Act (the SVPA), N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24 to -27.38. He appeals from the November 8, 2007, order of Judge Philip M. Freedman, that continued his commitment after an annual review hearing that took place on October 30, 2007. B.R. does not contest that the State produced sufficient evidence demonstrating that he continues to "suffer from a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes [him] likely to engage in acts of sexual violence if not confined in a secure facility for control, care and treatment." N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.26. Rather, he argues that he "has made incredible strides" in his treatment at the STU, and that the institution should be ordered to begin "discharge planning" for his eventual release. After due consideration of the record and applicable legal standards, we affirm.
B.R. was first committed to the STU on April 3, 2000, following a sentence he served at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center (ADTC) at Avenel as a result of his conviction for aggravated sexual assault upon a six-year old boy. That predicate offense involved repeated episodes that occurred on at least five occasions between October 1 and December 31, 1992. We affirmed B.R.'s commitment to the STU on May 23, 2002. In re Civil Commitment of B.R., A-666-01 (App. Div. May 23, 2002). On May 24, 2005, we once again affirmed his continued commitment following his third re-commitment hearing. In re Civil Commitment of B.L.R., A-5186-03 (App. Div. May 24, 2005).*fn1
At the hearing that gives rise to this appeal, the State presented the testimony of Doctor Michael McAllister, a staff psychiatrist at the STU. McAllister evaluated B.R.'s progress during 2007, most recently on October 3, 2007, a few weeks before the hearing.
McAllister reviewed the treatment notes of the STU and the report prepared by the Treatment Progress Review Committee (TPRC). He noted that in the most recent interview he conducted, B.R. displayed "a deliberate deceptiveness and a deliberate attempt to paint himself in such a way that would attempt to make himself look as it he didn't need treatment." McAllister noted the disparity between B.R.'s admissions to the TPRC that he had "sexual fantasies about boys since an early age," and his statement to McAllister that he had no such fantasies "preceding the crime." He noted B.R.'s statements to the treatment team at Avenel that he would "go to malls, parks and video arcades to be around young boys in connection with his sexual attraction to them," in contrast to his claim to McAllister that these were "just places he would go," with no sexual purpose involved.
McAllister reached the conclusion that B.R. had "a rather severe sexual deviance which he [was] attempting to minimize and mislead about. And that he has not been fully open and honest about in his treatment." McAllister acknowledged the TPRC's conclusion that B.R. had shown "an improvement in his participation" in treatment; however, given B.R.'s denial of deviant thoughts he had previously admitted, McAllister opined that if "[B.R.] w[as] at liberty and he considered his liberty interest to be in danger because he was having deviant thoughts, it d[idn't] suggest . . . that [B.R.] would be willing to be open or honest about it." McAllister rendered a diagnosis that B.R. suffered from pedophilia, "with a sexual attraction both to male and female prepubertal children . . . not limited to family members." He also opined that B.R. suffered from a personality disorder that was "both narcissistic . . . and antisocial." He further noted B.R.'s history of alcohol abuse and noted "some learning disability difficulties." McAllister concluded that B.R.'s "risk to sexually re-offend if he was liberty would be extremely high."
On cross-examination, McAllister acknowledged that B.R. had made "significant progress" in treatment, as demonstrated by his recent participation in group therapy and his submission to polygraph testing. He further acknowledged that the progress notes displayed B.R.'s "decrease in impulsivity" and a greater ability to control certain impulses "at this time."
The State's next witness was Nicole Paolillo, a staff psychologist at the STU and a member of B.R.'s TPRC. She reviewed the treatment notes and the most recent TPRC report, dated October 8, 2007. Paolillo noted that B.R. was recently "demonstrating a higher tolerance for frustration," was "remaining in group," "following the recommendations" of his treatment providers, and "complying with polygraph examinations." In short, B.R. was "generally presenting as more cooperative in the process." On cross-examination, Paolillo noted that "in contrast to his previous participation," B.R. had demonstrated "a positive step."
In his oral opinion issued on November 8, 2007, Judge Freedman reviewed B.R.'s prior history and treatment, noting the significant number of occasions in the past when B.R. had admitted having experienced deviant sexual arousal around children from a young age. He noted B.R.'s admission to the TPRC that he continued to "have current sexual arousal to children." Judge Freedman noted that the TPRC had recommended that B.R. be advanced to Stage Three treatment in its most recent report, ...