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In re Civil Commitment of C.A.H.

June 20, 2008


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, SVP-278-02.

Per curiam.



Argued June 2, 2008

Before Judges A. A. Rodríguez and C. L. Miniman.

C.A.H. appeals from the November 30, 2007 order, which continued his commitment to the Special Treatment Unit (STU) 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, and set a one-year review date. We affirm.

Appellant was temporarily committed beginning on October 24, 2002. A final judgment of civil commitment was entered on March 24, 2003. Appellant's commitment has been continued four more times: October 6, 2003*fn1 ; September 23, 2005; August 10, 2006; and November 30, 2007.

On his more recent order of continued commitment, the evidence before the trial court can be summarized as follows. Pogos Voskanian, M.D., prepared a report and was one of two witnesses at the hearing. Dr. Voskanian is a psychiatrist in private practice and is not a treating physician. He reached a diagnosis on Axis-I of: paraphilia NOS, sexual sadism, rule out transvestic fetishism, rule out pedophilia, alcohol dependence in controlled environment, history of heroin and benzodiazepine abuse (pink hearts), and rule out PTSD. On Axis-II, he was diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder by history. Axis-III reported history of seizure disorder and history of renal calculi. Axis-IV severe and Axis-V G.A.F. 40/40. Dr. Voskanian testified that he did not have an opportunity to interview C.A.H. subsequent to September 2, 2005, because C.A.H. refused.

Dr. Voskanian opined that C.A.H. had a very deep pathology by virtue of his claimed lack of recall, his avoiding treatment and other factors. According to the physician, C.A.H. does not know what constitutes a normal sexual relationship; his only sexual encounters were limited to his victims and he had practically no conventional relationships. Dr. Voskanian opined that C.A.H. is not being honest about the offenses, but rather is avoiding treatment and discussion. Dr. Voskanian concluded that C.A.H.'s commitment should continue.

Nicole Paolillo, Psy.D., a psychologist, is a member of the Treatment Progress Review Committee (TPRC). She prepared the committee's report. The TPRC panel recommended that C.A.H. remain in Phase-2 of treatment. Dr. Paolillo reported that she was not able to interview C.A.H. because he refused. She noted that C.A.H. had not completed any program requirements. C.A.H. carried a Static-99 score of seven, which is a high risk score. Dr. Paolillo diagnosed C.A.H. with paraphilia NOS and hebaphilia (arousal by teenage females between fourteen and the early twenties). She also diagnosed transvestic fetishism and alcohol abuse dependence based on a self-report of a fifteen-year-long period of alcohol abuse. She also diagnosed antisocial personality disorder.

Dr. Paolillo related the recommendations for treatment, particularly focusing on the trauma C.A.H. experienced as a child and helping him process that. Dr. Paolillo pointed out that the treatment team had stated that C.A.H. is psychologically avoiding his abuse and arousal issues by denying recollection of his victims and that this will limit his relapse prevention work.

The trial court concluded from a review of the medical records, treatment notes, and the testimony, that C.A.H. has focused almost exclusively on the issues of family matters and that he has not, in any substantial way, addressed his sex offending behavior or his deviant arousal.

The standard for commitment pursuant to the SVPA requires the State to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that "the individual has serious difficulty in controlling sexually harmful behavior such that it is highly likely that he or she will not control his or her sexually violent behavior and will reoffend." In re Commitment of W.Z., 173 N.J. 109, 132 (2002). See also In re Commitment of G.G.N., 372 N.J. Super. 42, 46-47 (App. Div. 2004). Thus, the court must address the individual's "present serious difficulty with control over dangerous sexual behavior," and the State must establish by clear and convincing evidence . . . "that it is highly likely that the person . . . will reoffend." W.Z., supra, 173 N.J. at 132-34. Our review must defer to the trial court's determination unless the record reveals "a clear abuse of discretion." In re Civil Commitment of A.E.F., 377 N.J. Super. 473, 493 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 185 N.J. 393 (2005). See also In re Civil Commitment of V.A., 357 N.J. Super. 55, 63 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 177 N.J. 490 (2003) (holding that decisions reached in commitment proceedings are subject to the abuse of discretion standard on appeal).

Here, judging the proofs in light of the SVPA commitment standard, we conclude that the State has met its burden of proof by clear and convincing evidence that C.A.H. does satisfy the elements of the SVPA. The record is sufficient ...

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