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In the Matter of the Civil Commitment of R.J. Svp-395-05.

July 8, 2011


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Docket No. SVP-395-05.

Per curiam.



Argued June 14, 2011

Before Judges Carchman and Parrillo.

R.J. appeals from the December 17, 2010 order of the Law Division, continuing his involuntary civil commitment to the Special Treatment Unit (STU) as a sexually violent predator pursuant to the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24 to -27.38. He argues that the State presented insufficient evidence to support his continued commitment. We have thoroughly reviewed the record and we find appellant's argument lacks merit. We are satisfied the judge's findings are amply supported by the record. Accordingly, we affirm.

R.J. is a twenty-six-year-old male. The predicate offense involves an adjudication of delinquency in 2002 for conduct which, if committed by an adult, would constitute first-degree aggravated sexual assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2a(4). This charge stemmed from his performing fellatio on a sixteen-year-old boy while armed with a knife. At the time, R.J. was also sixteen years old. R.J. gave a statement to the police in the presence of Eric Messer, whom he falsely described as his "father." He admitted the allegations and stated that, while staying in a motel room with Mr. Messer:

[R.J.] did in fact invite a young white male to his hotel room. [R.J.] stated that [Messer] left the room early in the morning to go to church. [R.J.] stated that as soon as the victim entered his room he grabbed him by the throat and pushed him into the rear of the main door. [R.J.] advised that once the male's pants were removed he did in fact perform fellatio on him. [R.J.] stated that the male suspect tried to get away and he had to physically restrain him by using a headlock on him. [R.J.] advised that he threw the subject to the floor of [sic] once again performed fellatio on him. . . . [R.J.] advised that he let the white male subject leave. [R.J.] noted that before this subject departed from his motel room, he did show him a knife, and told him that he would kill him if he told anybody of what had happened.

R.J. was committed to the Juvenile Medium Security Facility for four years. As he approached his release date, in May 2005, the State filed a petition for R.J.'s commitment pursuant to the SVPA. R.J. was committed on November 10, 2005. On July 6, 2006, following a review hearing, the commitment was continued. We affirmed that decision on appeal. In re Commitment of R.J., No. A-5769-05 (App. Div. July 21, 2009) (slip op. at 16).

The instant proceeding, which is the subject of this appeal, occurred on October 20 and December 1, 2010. The State presented the testimony Dr. Jamie Canataro and Dr. Pogos Voskanian. R.J. produced the testimony of Dr. Uri Amit and Dr. Christopher Lorah.

Dr. Canataro diagnosed R.J. with the following psychiatric conditions: polysubstance dependence in a controlled setting; attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder; and antisocial personality disorder. R.J. was tested on Static-99, which is a measure of relative risk for sexual recidivism. On this test, R.J. scored a 6, which places him in the high risk category for sexual reoffending. R.J. was also subject to a sexual history polygraph, which indicated deception.

In his meeting with Dr. Canataro, R.J. admitted that he still struggles with deviant arousal and that he had last masturbated to a deviant fantasy approximately eight months before their meeting. Specifically, R.J. said that he masturbated to thoughts of holding someone down on the beach, and that he currently experiences pop-up thoughts of deviant fantasies. According to Dr. Canataro, these deviant thoughts, specifically those during masturbation, are indicative of the fact that the relapse prevention is not yet working. Although R.J. denied allegations of intimacy with a younger STU resident, he did admit to being in a previous sexual relationship with another individual in the facility about nine months ago.

Dr. Canataro noted that, more recently, R.J. has shown an increase in motivation for treatment, and encouraged him to continue on his positive treatment trajectory. In this regard, Dr. Canataro noted that R.J. was maintaining investment in treatment by going to groups, participating in floors, and being supportive to his other group members, along with participating in self-help groups. However, R.J. does not often talk about himself, which, according to Dr. Canataro, is an important part of his treatment.

Dr. Canataro also noted that R.J. needed to refrain from any behaviors that could be misinterpreted as sexual with other residents, and that he needed to identify other possible victims of his behavior as well as his own deviant arousal. Dr. Canataro also recommended that ...

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