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In re Civil Commitment of G.Z.

June 2, 2010


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Docket No. SVP-224-02.

Per curiam.



Argued May 24, 2010

Before Judges Lisa and Coburn.

Appellant G.Z., fifty-one years of age, appeals from Judge Freedman's December 7, 2009 order continuing his involuntary civil commitment in the New Jersey Special Treatment Unit (STU) as a sexually violent predator pursuant to the New Jersey Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24 to -27.38. At oral argument, appellant's counsel argued that Judge Freedman's findings are not supported by the record. In particular, appellant argues that the State failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that he was highly likely to reoffend, and he therefore no longer meets the criteria for commitment.*fn1 We disagree and affirm.

The petition for civil commitment described the following predicate offense: On September 18, 1983, appellant met seventeen-year-old C.S. for the first time at a bar in Gloucester City. He offered to drive her home, but instead drove her, in a stolen vehicle and against her will, to a wooded area where he raped her twice. At the time, appellant was on parole for a May 1982 conviction for burglary, robbery, and theft. On April 2, 1985, appellant pled guilty to second-degree aggravated sexual assault and received a ten-year prison sentence. He was paroled on May 3, 1988.

In addition to the predicate offense, appellant's criminal history includes a one year probation sentence for malicious damage to property and breaking and entering in February 1973; an indeterminate prison sentence for burglary, theft, robbery, and possession of weapons in May 1982; and various charges in November 1999 while he was incarcerated, including attempting and planning to escape.

On May 21, 1988, eighteen days after his parole for the predicate offense, appellant was arrested in Nevada in connection with two separate instances in which he attempted to lure three children, ages five, five, and nine, into his vehicle, and was in fact successful in one attempt but the child managed to escape. He was tried and found guilty by a Nevada jury of second-degree kidnapping and possession of a stolen vehicle, and was sentenced on November 9, 1988 to fifteen years in prison.

On February 24, 1999, appellant was returned to New Jersey to serve a sentence for violation of parole. Prior to his scheduled release from prison in January 2002, the State petitioned for civil commitment pursuant to the SVPA. He was temporarily civilly committed to the STU on January 10, 2002, and after an initial hearing, was committed on August 26, 2002. We affirmed that commitment by our opinion of May 18, 2004. A-2145-02T2.

Subsequent review hearings were held, and appellant was recommitted by orders dated August 9, 2004, August 29, 2005,*fn2 August 7, 2006,*fn3 and December 4, 2007. We affirmed the December 4, 2007 commitment by our opinion of June 17, 2008. A-2382-07T2.

The review hearing that is the subject of this appeal was conducted on November 12, 2009. Judge Freedman rendered an oral opinion on December 7, 2009, and issued his order the same day.

At the hearing, appellant's attorney indicated that appellant refused to attend the hearing and refused to meet with him. The State presented the testimony of Dr. Roger Harris, a psychiatrist, who testified that although appellant refused to be evaluated, he had sufficient information from other expert reports, treatment reports, and progress notes to render a medical opinion. Dr. Harris diagnosed appellant with the following: Paraphilia NOS, pedophilia, hebephilia, alcohol dependence, polysubstance abuse, and antisocial personality disorder. According to Dr. Harris, these disorders and appellant's "serious difficulty controlling his sexually offending behavior," combined with the fact that he attempted to lure three children into his car shortly after being paroled for the predicate offense, make it highly likely that he would reoffend if released from the STU. Dr. Harris' report was admitted into evidence and was consistent with his testimony.

The State also presented the report of Dr. Nicole Paolillo, a psychologist and author of the report of the Treatment Progress Review Committee (TPRC). Although Dr. Paolillo did not testify, appellant's attorney "consent[ed] to the admission of Dr. Paolillo's report as testimony she would have testified, had she been here." Dr. Paolillo's diagnoses of appellant were consistent with Dr. Harris's. She concluded that he is a high ...

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