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In the Matter of the Civil Commitment of

December 29, 2010


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Docket No. SVP-168-01.

Per curiam.



Argued December 13, 2010

Before Judges Lisa and Reisner.

J.S.W. appeals from an April 28, 2010 order continuing his civil commitment to the Special Treatment Unit (STU), pursuant to the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24 to -27.38. We affirm.


J.S.W. has a history of non-sexual criminal offenses, including conspiracy to commit robbery and several drug-related convictions. However, his sexual offense history began in September 1991, when he was arrested and charged with sexual assault. The charge was downgraded to simple assault and ultimately dismissed on February 26, 1992. He was arrested and charged with attempted sexual assault and criminal restraint on May 31, 1992. After the charge was downgraded to harassment and disorderly conduct, J.S.W. pled guilty and received a $100 fine. Both of these charges stemmed from reports made by a woman with whom J.S.W. was in a relationship at the time.

J.S.W. was arrested and charged with sexual assault, kidnapping and child abuse on September 8, 1992. The investigation began when the victim's sister approached the police to notify them that a man had forced her sister into an abandoned building. When the police approached the building, they heard a female screaming upstairs. They located J.S.W. and the victim, both naked, in a front bedroom. The victim, a 17 year old female, stated that J.S.W. had grabbed her by the arm and forced her up a staircase inside the building, where he sexually assaulted her. On December 9, 1992, J.S.W. pled guilty to sexual assault, and the remaining charges were dismissed. He was sentenced to a prison term of six years on July 30, 1993.

The predicate offense to J.S.W.'s civil commitment occurred on August 11, 1995. On that occasion, J.S.W. committed a violent sexual assault on D.P., a twenty-three old female acquaintance. On November 27, 1995, J.S.W. pled guilty to sexual assault and was sentenced to a term of six years with five years of parole ineligibility on May 28, 1996. After serving his sentence, he was involuntarily committed to the STU in 2001. We affirmed his initial civil commitment and his continued commitment after the first review hearing. In the Matter of the Civil Commitment of J.S.W., Nos. A-1085-02; A-1590-02 (App. Div. July 16, 2004).

J.S.W. stipulated that he continued to qualify for confinement under the SVPA, and Judge Perretti continued his commitment to the STU by order dated August 24, 2005. Judge Freedman found the State had provided clear and convincing evidence that J.S.W. continued to be in need of involuntary civil commitment and ordered his continued commitment at the STU on November 15, 2007. J.S.W. appealed Judge Freedman's decision, which we affirmed on June 10, 2008. In the Matter of the Civil Commitment of J.S.W., No. A-1510-07 (App. Div. June 10, 2008).

The current appeal arises from a March 15, 2010 hearing before Judge McLaughlin. The following evidence was presented at that hearing. Dr. Roger M. Harris testified as an expert in the field of psychiatry. He evaluated J.S.W. on March 4, 2010. In addition to this in-person interview, Dr. Harris considered TPRC reports, STU progress notes, prior forensic evaluations, and PSI reports in drawing his conclusions about J.S.W.'s mental health. Dr. Harris concluded that J.S.W. "meets criteria for civil commitment under New Jersey's SVP laws" based on his prior sexual assaults against young women, arousal to being in a position of control over women, and "his strong antisocial attitudes and behaviors."

Dr. Harris diagnosed J.S.W. with antisocial personality disorder, paraphilia NOS coercion, and anabolic steroid abuse.*fn1

He gave J.S.W. a score of 4 on the Static-99R categorizing him as being at a moderate or high risk to sexually reoffend when released from prison. He opined, however, that the test underestimated J.S.W.'s actual likelihood to reoffend, "given his strong antisocial attitudes, behaviors and deviant arousal." While Dr. Harris acknowledged that J.S.W. has made progress in treatment, he also noted that his knowledge of his sex offense cycle was "rudimentary" only two years ago. J.S.W. had been in the STU for eight years, but Dr. Harris opined that he had not yet made sufficient progress to be released into the community. Dr. Harris focused on the fact that J.S.W. only recently (since 2008) set aside his control issues and became more assertive in his own treatment. He had previously expressed the opinion that J.S.W.'s main outside ...

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