On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Docket No. SVP-274-02.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Lisa and Coburn.
Appellant, D.C.R., now forty-six years of age, appeals from Judge McLaughlin's November 18, 2009 order determining that he met the criteria for civil commitment as a sexually violent predator and recommitting him to the Special Treatment Unit (STU), a secure custodial facility designed for the treatment of persons in need of involuntary civil commitment, pursuant to the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24 to -27.38. On appeal, appellant argues that the State failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that he is highly likely to reoffend if not confined to the STU.*fn1 We disagree and affirm.
The first sexual offense for which appellant was convicted occurred on October 4, 1997. S.G. fell asleep in her friend's car in the parking lot of a restaurant. She woke up when she felt appellant, whom she had just met, molesting her. After the police were notified, a warrant was issued for appellant's arrest. He was arrested on February 4, 1998 in Houston, Texas and extradited to New Jersey on February 18, 1998. On April 28, 1998, appellant pled guilty to first-degree aggravated sexual assault. He was sentenced on July 31, 1998 in the second-degree range to five years in prison with a parole disqualifier of four years and three months. The sentence was amended on May 17, 1999 to add a five-year period of supervision upon release.
On November 29, 2000, A.A. informed the police that appellant had sexually assaulted her in 1996 when she was thirteen years old. Appellant was subsequently charged with sexual assault, to which he pled guilty on May 24, 2001. On October 12, 2001, he was sentenced to three years imprisonment with a one-year parole disqualifier, to run concurrently with the sentence he was already serving for aggravated sexual assault. He was also sentenced to Community Supervision for Life and no contact with the victim.
Appellant's convictions constituted sexually violent offenses as defined in N.J.S.A. 30:4-77.26. The State filed a petition seeking appellant's civil commitment pursuant to the SVPA. On October 10, 2002, the court found probable cause to believe that appellant was a sexually violent predator and issued a temporary commitment order authorizing his transfer to the STU pending a final hearing. A final hearing was held on January 17 and 23, 2003. The court found that the State's evidence established that appellant was a sexually violent predator and ordered that he be remanded to the STU. Appellant appealed and we affirmed on February 6, 2006. No. A-3270-02T2.
A review hearing was held on July 14, 2006. On July 19, 2006, the court determined that appellant continued to be a sexually violent predator and ordered that he remain confined to the STU. Appellant appealed and we affirmed on April 9, 2007. No. A-6354-05T2. Another review hearing was held on July 11, 2007. The court found that appellant continued to be a sexually violent predator and ordered that he remain confined to the STU. Appellant appealed and we affirmed on May 21, 2008. No. A-1849-07T2. Additional review hearings were held on August 14, 2008 and November 18, 2009. The court found separately on both occasions that appellant continued to be a sexually violent predator and ordered his continued commitment. Appellant now appeals from the November 18, 2009 decision.
At the November 18, 2009 hearing, the State presented the testimony of Dr. Pogos Voskanian, a psychiatrist. He testified that appellant did not participate in an interview scheduled for October 28, 2009, but that appellant had participated in an interview with him in July 2009. Dr. Voskanian testified that he was able to render an opinion to a reasonable degree of psychiatric certainty based upon past interviews and a review of defendant's case history. Dr. Voskanian diagnosed appellant with paraphilia NOS, pedophilia, alcohol dependency in institutional remission, and personality disorder NOS with antisocial traits. He opined that these conditions in combination predispose appellant to commit acts of sexual violence, cause him to have a serious difficulty controlling his sexual offending behavior, and, considering his poor progress in treatment, put him at a high risk of reoffending. Dr. Voskanian's report of November 2, 2009 was admitted into evidence, and it was consistent with his testimony. Appellant did not produce any witnesses on his behalf at the November 18, 2009 hearing.
Judge McLaughlin's November 18, 2009 oral opinion thoroughly reviewed the documentary and testimonial evidence, and he concluded:
I find by the unrefuted evidence the [S]tate has proven, by clear and convincing evidence, that [appellant] suffers from an abnormality, a personality disorder, namely his paraphilia, his pedophilia, and his personality disorder with anti-social traits.
That this personality disorder disposes him to have serious difficulty to control his harmfully, sexually violent behavior. And that he presently isn't able to control his harmfully, sexually violent behavior, such that it is highly likely that he will reoffend in the reasonably foreseeable ...