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In re Civil Commitment of P.A.C.

June 25, 2008


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, SVP-159-01.

Per curiam.



Argued June 3, 2008

Before Judges Skillman, Winkelstein and Yannotti.

Appellant, P.A.C., appeals from a March 23, 2005 judgment committing him to the State of New Jersey Special Treatment Unit (STU), pursuant to the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24 to -27.38. On appeal, he challenges the court's jurisdiction, he asserts that the trial court improperly relied on hearsay, and that the State violated his freedom of speech and thought. We affirm.

Appellant was arrested in Vineland on March 12, 1999, after accessing child pornography web sites on a computer in the Vineland Public Library. In November 1999, he pleaded guilty to fourth-degree endangering the welfare of children, N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4b(4)(b).*fn1 In re Civil Commitment of P.C., 349 N.J. Super. 569, 573 (App. Div. 2002). The court imposed an eighteen-month prison term. Id. at 574. Before appellant's release, the Attorney General petitioned to have him committed pursuant to the SVPA. Ibid. On February 27, 2001, the trial judge issued a temporary commitment order authorizing his transfer to the STU.

Appellant filed a motion to dismiss the State's petition and the temporary commitment order as violating his 1999 plea agreement. Ibid. We granted interlocutory review and affirmed. Id. at 582.

Following a final commitment hearing, in January 2003 the court committed appellant to the STU. Appellant appealed and we reversed. In re Civil Commitment of P.A.C., No. A-2693-02 (App. Div. Nov. 17, 2004). We concluded that the trial judge relied too heavily upon hearsay contained in reports and documents prepared by experts who did not testify at the hearing, and we remanded for a new commitment hearing. After a four-day hearing, Judge Serena J. Perretti found that appellant is a sexually violent predator in need of involuntary civil commitment, and committed him to the STU.

In June 1981, at age seventeen, appellant was arrested in Philadelphia; he was charged with and pleaded guilty to criminal solicitation to commit involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, for which he received probation. In re P.C., supra, 349 N.J. Super. at 572. In August 1987, he was arrested in Pennsylvania for "attempting to coerce fellatio" on a fifteen-year-old boy. Ibid. He pleaded guilty to one count of corruption of a minor, and he received three years probation. Ibid.

In September 1987, appellant was again arrested in Philadelphia. Ibid. He pleaded guilty to two counts of corrupting a minor and two counts of soliciting involuntary deviate sexual intercourse from two boys, ages eleven and thirteen, and received an eleven and one-half to twenty-three-month prison term, to be followed by three years probation. Ibid.

In February 1989, he was arrested in Pennsylvania for the sexual assault of a fifteen-year-old boy. Ibid. At the bench trial, the victim testified that appellant "grabbed him by the neck and told him he was taking him to the railroad tracks to force him to submit to oral sex." Ibid. Appellant testified that he did not touch the victim. The court's factual findings are not available, but it convicted appellant of attempted involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, corruption of a minor, and assault. Ibid. The court imposed a ten-year prison term with a four-year mandatory minimum.

When appellant was released in February 1999, he was thirty-five years old. He went to live with his father in Vineland. At the Vineland Public Library, appellant accessed child pornography websites on a library computer. A librarian warned him not to view that material, but the next day he returned to the library and did so again. Library personnel reported appellant to the police. Id. at 573.

Pursuant to a search warrant, on March 9, 1999, police searched appellant's father's home, where they found computer discs containing photographs of nude boys under the age of eighteen. Ibid. Appellant was charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4b(4)(a) and (b). Ibid. He pleaded guilty to one count of fourth-degree endangering the welfare of children. Although when appellant was evaluated at the Adult Diagnostic Treatment Center (ADTC), he was deemed eligible for sentencing to ADTC under sex offender laws, he was sentenced to an eighteen-month prison term because he refused treatment at ADTC. Id. at 573-74.

At the remand hearing before Judge Perretti, the State presented the testimony of Dr. Luis Zeiguer, a psychiatrist. He had interviewed appellant on three occasions, twice in 2002 and again in March 2005. He testified that in reaching his conclusions, he did not rely on other people's diagnoses or opinions. He diagnosed appellant with paraphilia, not otherwise specified; and with personality disorder, not otherwise specified, with narcissistic and antisocial components.

Dr. Zeiguer testified that appellant has a high risk of reoffending; that appellant does not have insight into his sexual offending history and behavior; and that appellant's treating therapist is under the impression that appellant considers sex with adolescent boys to be moral but illegal. Appellant had a score of eight on the Static-99 test, an actuarial study, which the doctor said puts him at the highest risk to reoffend. The doctor opined that appellant has "serious difficulty controlling his sexual offending behavior" because he has not been deterred by punishment. He found that appellant "appears to be full of short-term gratification," and has not benefited from therapy in a way that would "mediate . . . his risk."

Dr. Merrill Main, a psychologist at the ADTC, examined appellant on February 18, 2000, as part of his presentence evaluation. Dr. Main administered a battery of tests. He was concerned that appellant "was distrusting of authority figures, ...

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