On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, SVP-181-00.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Reisner and Sapp-Peterson.
E.C.L.*fn1 appeals from an order entered on July 9, 2008, continuing his 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. We affirm.
An involuntary civil commitment can follow service of a sentence, or other criminal disposition, when the offender "suffers from a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes the person 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.
[T]he State must prove that threat [to the health and safety of others because of the likelihood of his or her engaging in sexually violent acts] by demonstrating 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).]
The court must address "his or her present serious difficulty with control," and the State must establish that it is highly likely that the committee will reoffend by clear and convincing evidence. Id. at 132-34. See also In the Matter of the Commitment of J.H.M., 367 N.J. Super. 599, 610-11 (App. Div. 2003), certif. denied, 179 N.J. 312 (2004). After thoroughly reviewing the record, we are satisfied that the State has met its burden in this case.
E.C.L. was initially committed to the STU in 2001, after serving his sentence for a 1994 sexual assault on a three-year old girl. During this violent incident, E.C.L. inserted a metal ratchet into the child's vagina. He was given a ten-year sentence to the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center (ADTC), and was committed to the STU after serving four years of that sentence.
We previously affirmed E.C.L.'s continued commitment to the STU in 2006. In re Civil Commitment of E.L., Docket No. A-3985-05 (App. Div. Nov. 21, 2006). We will not reiterate the history detailed in that opinion, relying instead on the evidence presented in the 2008 hearing which gave rise to this appeal.
During an evaluation to determine whether he should be sentenced to the ADTC, E.C.L. disclosed a preoccupation with young girls and admitted to having fondled his six and seven year old nieces. However, he later denied this activity, claiming that he only admitted it to increase his chances of being placed in the ADTC because he was afraid of being incarcerated in the regular prison population. Once he was committed to the STU, he exhibited a pattern of alternating participation and withdrawal from therapeutic programs. He also was disciplined in 2000 for exposing his genitals to a female therapist during a group therapy session.
At his 2008 hearing, the State presented testimony from Dr. Rosemary Stewart, a psychologist, and Dr. Roger Harris, a psychiatrist. Both of these expert witnesses testified that E.C.L. showed a pattern of sabotaging his own progress in therapy. Periods of initial progress in therapy groups would be followed by withdrawal from participation. He also refused to take polygraph tests aimed at determining whether he was truthful in disclosing the molestation of his nieces or whether those were fabrications. Both experts testified that E.C.L. suffered from antisocial personality disorder as well as substance abuse, and anger ...