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In re Civil Commitment of R.S.

December 12, 2008


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Docket No. SVP-450-07.

Per curiam.



Submitted November 19, 2008

Before Judges Parrillo and Lihotz.

R.S. appeals from an April 19, 2007 order of the Law Division requiring his involuntary commitment to the Special Treatment Unit (STU), pursuant to 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.

The predicate sexually violent offense for which thirty-seven-year-old R.S. is currently committed to the STU occurred in 2001 and involved a fourteen-year-old girl, K.J. R.S. admitted having sexual intercourse with her, performing oral sex on her, and having her fellate him. R.S. pled guilty to child endangerment, N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4, and was sentenced to a five-year term, which was served at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center (ADTC), having been evaluated a repetitive and compulsive sex offender pursuant to the Sex Offender Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:7-1 to -11. During his Avenel evaluation, R.S. admitted having sexual problems that required treatment. He explained that "it keeps happening and happening and I want it to stop happening."

R.S.'s prior sexually violent offenses date back to 1985, when as a fourteen-year-old, he was adjudicated delinquent for exposing his genitals to a four-year-old, whom he also asked to "suck" his penis. He was given probation and ordered to submit to a psychological evaluation. Two years later, in 1987, he was adjudicated delinquent for an offense, which if committed by an adult, would have constituted aggravated sexual assault. This incident involved a nine-year-old mentally impaired boy who said he was sodomized by R.S. In fact, R.S. admitted the offense, and further, that he forced his victim to perform oral sex on him on multiple occasions. As a result of this adjudication, R.S. was sentenced to two years probation on a suspended sentence with the condition that he complete the Pinelands Residential Program. Despite having received treatment at the Pinelands facility,*fn1 in 1992, R.S. was convicted of child endangerment involving sexually offending an eleven-year-old female on multiple occasions and whom R.S. admitted having penetrated. For this offense, R.S. was sentenced to a five-year probationary term, 365 days in county jail, and ordered to continue counseling.

At the completion of R.S.'s Avenel sentence for the 2001 predicate offense, the State petitioned for his civil commitment. At the ensuing hearing, the State presented two expert witnesses, Natalie Barone, Psy.D., and Dr. Luis Zeiguer, a psychiatrist. Their testimony was unopposed.

Based on her interview and psychological evaluation of R.S., Barone concluded that R.S. is a life-long sex offender with a longstanding sexual pathology that is a part of his sexual orientation. Dr. Barone diagnosed R.S. with pedophilia, (sexually attracted to females, non-exclusive), paraphilia (NOS), hebephilia, alcohol abuse in institutional remission, history of cannabis abuse, rule-out exhibitionism, and antisocial personality disorder. According to Dr. Barone, R.S.'s score on the Static-99 indicates he is at high-risk for sexual recidivism. In addition to the actuarials, Dr. Barone identified other high-risk factors, including the number of R.S.'s sex offenses, his non-sexual violence, the length of his offending behavior, his compulsivity, his inability to respond to community supervision, and his diverse victim pool.

Dr. Barone also found that R.S. minimizes, justifies or flat-out denies his sex offending behaviors, and does not believe he needs sex offender treatment. Previous treatment has apparently not reduced his high-risk to sexually reoffend, as according to his termination report at the ADTC, R.S. was resistant to treatment for most of his three-year confinement. Dr. Barone noted that R.S. had failed several modules, including Relapse Prevention -1 and -2, which are crucial components of sex offender treatment; became angry in groups; and made repeated attempts to drop out of the Therapeutic Community before he was eventually removed.

Dr. Zeiguer essentially agreed with Barone's diagnoses. He noted that R.S.'s pedophilia was early onset and that evidence of a conduct disorder surfaced before the age of fifteen. Characteristics of R.S.'s antisocial personality include failure to conform, deceit, manipulation, impulsivity, aggression, and a reckless disregard for the safety of others. According to Dr. Zeiguer, the early onset of these conditions and R.S.'s failure to respond to treatment lead to a poor prognosis, and increased the severity of the risk that R.S. will sexually offend in the future. R.S.'s risk is "very, very high" because he views himself as a victim and takes no responsibility for his actions.

As noted, the State's expert testimony stands uncontradicted. At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Perretti found

The evidence offered is clear and convincing. The court is clearly convinced that the respondent is a sexually-violent predator. He suffers from abnormal mental conditions and personality disorders that influence his volitional, emotional and cognitive functioning so as to predispose him to commit sexually-violent acts. He has serious difficulty controlling his sexually-violent behavior. As a result, it is highly likely that ...

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