On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, SVP-385-04.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued September 23, 2009
Before Judges Fisher and Sapp-Peterson.
C.R.T. appeals from a January 9, 2009 order continuing his commitment to the Special Treatment Unit (STU), with a future review date of October 7, 2009, pursuant to the New Jersey Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24 to -27.38. We affirm, substantially for the reasons stated by Judge Freedman in his comprehensive oral opinion placed on the record on October 31, 2008.
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 re-offend 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.
C.R.T. is a three-time convicted sex offender. In 1985 he pled guilty to second-degree aggravated sexual assault for molesting and impregnating his fifteen-year-old daughter, who subsequently received an abortion. The court imposed a seven-year custodial term with a five-year period of parole ineligibility. Following his release from prison, he was again arrested on charges of aggravated assault arising out of the digital penetration of his girlfriend's seven-year-old daughter. While acknowledging that he touched the victim's vagina, he explained that he did so at her request to assist her in applying vaginal ointment in an area where she had a rash. The victim's injuries included vaginal bleeding, a hymenal tear and a laceration near her cervix. A jury found defendant guilty of second-degree sexual assault and, on July 12, 1991, the court sentenced defendant to a four-year custodial term. His last offense was committed in June 1998 and stemmed from his digital penetration of the seven-year-old daughter of another girlfriend. He pled guilty to second-degree sexual assault and was sentenced to an eight-and-one-half-year custodial term with a five-year period of parole ineligibility.
C.R.T. refused to participate in the sex offender treatment program at the Adult Diagnostic Treatment Center (ADTC). In 2004 when his release from prison was imminent, the State initiated civil commitment proceedings, resulting in an order of temporary commitment. Following a later trial, the court entered an April 27, 2005 order classifying C.R.T. as a sexually violent predator in need of involuntary civil commitment pursuant to the SVPA. Although a review hearing was scheduled for the following year on April 6, 2006, C.R.T. executed a waiver of the review hearing until his direct appeal was decided. The direct appeal of his commitment was upheld by this court on November 16, 2006. In re the Civil Commitment of C.R.T., A-4659-04T2 (App. Div. November 16, 2006).
After a number of adjournments, at the request of both the State and the Office of the Public Defender, that spanned just over one year, the court conducted a review hearing. The State produced two witnesses: a ...