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In re Civil Commitment of R.L.C.

September 30, 2009


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Docket No. SVP 453-07.

Per curiam.



Argued September 2, 2009

Before Judges Payne and Waugh.

R.L.C. appeals from a judgment committing him to the Special Treatment Unit (STU) pursuant to the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVP Act), N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24 to -27.38. We affirm.


The following factual and procedural history is relevant to our consideration of the issues presented on appeal.

At approximately 11:00 p.m. on April 14, 1985, M.A., a fifteen-year-old female, was standing at the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Summit Street in Ridgefield. M.A. was talking to a friend when the two were approached by a man who asked the girls which one of them "wanted to have some fun?" The man, later identified as R.L.C., then grabbed M.A. by the arm and abducted her at gunpoint. M.A.'s friend ran home, informed her parents what had happened, and the police were notified.

While canvassing the area near the abduction, a Ridgefield police officer noticed a car parked at the Ridgefield police shooting range. The officer saw that no one was inside the vehicle. He then observed R.L.C. on top of M.A., who was naked, on the ground behind the range. R.L.C. immediately fled and M.A. ran to the officer. A gun holster and revolver were later recovered at the shooting range. The revolver had previously been reported stolen.

In her statement to police, M.A. reported that R.L.C. had taken her to a car and then drove to the parking lot. Once parked, R.L.C. told M.A. to get undressed and removed some of her clothing himself. He then ordered her out of the car and took her behind a building. R.L.C. then demanded M.A. perform oral sex on him and he then performed oral sex on her. M.A. stated that R.L.C. was stopped from assaulting her further by the arrival of the police officer.

R.L.C. was subsequently arrested in Suffolk County, New York, in connection with three armed robberies that occurred in March 1986. In each robbery, R.L.C. had approached women and demanded money and their shoes. When the police attempted to apprehend R.L.C. in connection with the robberies, he shot at the police and then shot himself in the head. R.L.C. suffered a "grazing" injury. R.L.C. pled guilty in New York and was sentenced to two concurrent twelve-year terms of incarceration, with six years to be served before parole eligibility.

The gun involved in the New York crimes had been stolen from the same person as the gun left behind at the scene of M.A.'s rape in New Jersey. R.L.C. was subsequently charged with two crimes in New Jersey.

On May 31, 1988, R.L.C. pled guilty in New Jersey to theft of a motor vehicle, N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3; theft of a handgun, N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3; kidnapping, N.J.S.A. 2C:13-1(b)(1); and aggravated sexual assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(a)(4). At the same time, R.L.C. pled guilty to one count of aggravated sexual assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(a)(2)(c), for the rape of his thirteen-year-old stepdaughter, T.D. R.L.C. had engaged in an ongoing sexual relationship with T.D., which he continued even after he was imprisoned for the New York offenses by having her mail him pictures of herself naked.

With respect to the two New Jersey guilty pleas, R.L.C. was sentenced to an aggregate thirty-year term of imprisonment with fifteen years of parole ineligibility. He was evaluated by the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center (ADTC), which determined that his conduct did "not appear to be part of a repetitive and compulsive pattern."*fn1

On February 20, 2007, prior to R.L.C.'s scheduled release from prison, the State petitioned for civil commitment pursuant to the SVP Act. On February 23, 2007, the Law Division granted an order for temporary commitment pending a final hearing.

The final hearing was held on September 27, 2007. The State presented two expert witnesses. The first, Dr. Brian Friedman, a psychologist, had attempted to interview R.L.C. on August 10, 2007, but R.L.C. refused to speak with him. Consequently, Friedman's assessment of R.L.C. was based on police reports, victim statements, pre-sentence reports, R.L.C.'s general criminal history, and statements from R.L.C.'s New Jersey plea hearing. Friedman found that R.L.C. did not take responsibility for the ...

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