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In re Civil Commitment of R.J.

July 21, 2009


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Docket No. SVP-395-05.

Per curiam.



Submitted April 22, 2009

Before Judges Stern, Rodríguez and Espinosa.

R.J. appeals from the July 6, 2006 order, continuing his involuntary civil commitment to the Special Treatment Unit (STU) as a sexually violent predator pursuant to the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24 to -27.38. We affirm.

R.J. is a twenty-four-year old male, who was adjudicated a delinquent for conduct, which if committed by an adult would constitute first-degree aggravated sexual assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2a(4). This charge stemmed from his performing fellatio on a sixteen-year-old boy while armed with a knife. At the time, R.J. was also sixteen years old. R.J. gave a statement to the police in the presence of Eric Messer, whom he falsely described as his "father." He admitted the allegations and stated that, while staying at a motel room with Messer:

[R.J.] did in fact invite a young white male into his motel room. [R.J.] stated that [Messer] left the room early in the morning to go to church. [R.J.] stated that as soon as the victim entered his room he grabbed him by the throat and pushed him into the rear of the main door. [R.J.] advised that once the male's pants were removed he did in fact perform fellatio on him. [R.J.] stated that the male subject tried to get away and he had to physically restrain him by using a headlock on him. [R.J.] advised that he threw the subject to the floor of [sic] once again performed fellatio on him. . . . [R.J.] advised that he let the white male subject leave. [R.J.] noted that before this subject departed from his motel room, he did show him a knife, and told him that he would kill him if he told anybody of what had happened.

R.J. was committed to the Juvenile Medium Security Facility for four years. As he approached his release date, in May 2005, the State filed a petition for R.J.'s commitment pursuant to the SVPA. R.J. was committed on November 10, 2005. On July 6, 2006, following a review hearing, the commitment was continued.

At the hearing, the State presented the testimony of Luis Zeiguer, M.D., Brian Friedman, Psy.D., and Kate Gallagher, MSW, LCSW. R.J. presented the testimony of June Sharyn Kennedy, Ph.D., Timothy Foley, Ph.D., and Sinde Hillman.

Dr. Zeiguer's Testimony

Dr. Zeiguer, a forensic psychiatrist, testified that he had the opportunity to evaluate R.J. in May 2006. He also reviewed various sources of information including reports of psychiatrists/psychologists who had previously evaluated R.J., as well as police reports, juvenile records and parole records.

Dr. Zeiguer discussed with R.J. the sexual crimes of which R.J. was adjudicated. R.J. admitted to him that he lured the sixteen-year-old victim into his motel room on the pretext of "showing him something." R.J. alleged that he did not have to use the knife because the victim allowed him to perform fellatio on him. R.J. stated that he mentioned the knife only when he let the victim go. At that time, he threatened the victim with harm if he reported the incident. R.J. claimed that this was the first time in his life that he had experienced a coercive thought or fantasy and that it lasted only ten minutes.

However, Dr. Zeiguer noted that R.J. previously described to a team of psychologists and social workers that he had forced another boy, who was thirteen years old, to perform fellatio by threatening him with a knife. These statements were memorialized in an evaluation report conducted by Kate Gallagher of the Darmaan Center on March 28, 2002. R.J. had also previously acknowledged experiencing and enacting sadomasochistic fantasies, and tricking males and females into having sex by getting them drunk. R.J. described "powerful urges" to perform these acts and stated that if he were released, he would probably do it again. When Dr. Zeiguer questioned R.J. about the statements he made in the Darmaan report, R.J. claimed that he had been misquoted.

According to Dr. Zeiguer, R.J. told him that all of his sexual encounters had been consensual and that his most extensive relationship was with A.J., which lasted for a period of three years. R.J. explained that the relationship ended when A.J. committed suicide. R.J. claims to have had at least ten consensual partners. R.J. denied prior allegations that his parents had abused alcohol and/or drugs, telling Dr. Zeiguer that he never made claims that his stepfather had abused him as a child. When confronted with accusations made to the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) that his stepfather had beaten him, R.J. insisted that he had no idea about the origin of the DYFS report.

According to Dr. Zeiguer, as time has gone by, R.J. has progressively "shaved off" all the negative factors in his life circumstances. R.J. now claims that certain circumstances in his life were a result of his being kidnapped by Eric Messer and that Messer forced drugs on him. R.J. alleges that Messer tied him down and injected him with drugs. Messer then forced him to engage in mutual fellatio and intercourse. R.J. stated that he did not try to escape because Messer threatened to harm his family.

Dr. Zeiguer questioned R.J. about the meaning of a tattoo on his hand. Although R.J. stated that he did not want to discuss it, he at one time had relayed to Rusty Reeves, a forensic psychiatrist, that it was satanic, meaning "kids in devil's den."

Dr. Zeiguer reached the following conclusions and recommendations:

[R.J.] suffers from Paraphilia NOS and Antisocial Personality Disorder that manifested by his crimes and his descriptions to the predisposition evaluators, he did not respond to treatment within the Juvenile Facility or the STU environment. As the treatment progresses his denial of his behavioral, sexual, alcohol and drug problems becomes more recalcitrant, this is accompanied by his ...

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