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In the Matter of the

November 15, 2011


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Docket No. SVP-396-05.

Per curiam.



Argued October 25, 2011

Before Judges Carchman and Nugent.

Appellant, R.F., appeals from the Law Division's April 12, 2011 judgment continuing his involuntary commitment to the Special Treatment Unit (STU) under the New Jersey 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 lacking in merit. We are satisfied the judge's findings are amply supported by the record. Accordingly, we affirm.

The predicate offense that resulted in appellant's conviction and, ultimately, his civil commitment is based on events that transpired on December 30, 1992. On that date, appellant entered a travel agency in Trenton and asked 32-year-old K.B. about the purchase of airline tickets for a honeymoon trip. K.B. told appellant she would check prices for him, and he said he would return the next day. Instead, he returned one hour later. After another customer left the shop, appellant asked K.B. to see some jewelry in the counter at the rear of the shop. As K.B. attempted to open the showcase, appellant grabbed her from behind around her neck. He dragged her into the bathroom, ripped her clothes off and started to beat and threaten her. He pulled down his pants and attempted to rape her, but he was unable to perform. Enraged, he grabbed a rug from the floor and attempted to strangle her. After, he banged her head against the sink, breaking the sink, and then tried to force her head into the toilet bowl. He also threatened her with a pocketknife and demanded money. After approximately twenty minutes, appellant fled, and K.B.'s screams from the bathroom brought help and eventually the police. It was determined that appellant must have been observing the store because on his first visit he made inquiries regarding another employee who was present at an earlier date. K.B. later identified appellant and provided the police with his name and telephone number.

On July 14, 1993, appellant pled guilty to second-degree attempted aggravated sexual assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2a, and first-degree robbery, N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1b, in connection with the December 30, 1992 incident. In January 1994, he was sentenced to a term of twenty years incarceration.

On May 18, 2005, prior to appellant's parole eligibility date, the State filed a Petition for Civil Commitment under the SVPA. According to this petition, appellant had a history of sexual and other offenses dating back to 1970, including two juvenile adjudications for attempted rape and adult convictions for sexual assault, sodomy, public lewdness, robbery and taking and receiving stolen property.

The record revealed that in April 1970, while serving a probationary sentence as a juvenile for two sexual-related offenses, appellant entered a residence and attempted to rape a fifteen-year-old girl. As a result, in July 1970, appellant pled guilty to assault with intent to commit rape and was sentenced to an indeterminate term, not to exceed twelve years, of which he served nine years in prison.

Finally, in 1984, appellant was sentenced to probation in Georgia for a charge of sodomy/aggravated sodomy.

On May 20, 2005, appellant was temporarily committed to the STU. Following a hearing and stipulation on the complaint for commitment, the judge found appellant to be a sexually violent predator with a high likelihood of re-offending, and thereafter in June 2005, appellant was committed to the STU for a period of twelve months. Subsequent reviews were held, and appellant's commitment was continued in each of those reviews.

The present review was conducted on April 8 and 12, 2011, at which time Judge James Mulvihill considered the expert testimony of psychologist Jamie Canataro, Psy.D. and author of appellant's Treatment Progress Review Committee (TPRC) report; psychiatrist Pogos Voskanian, M.D.; and psychologist Timothy Foley, Ph.D., as well as the testimony of appellant and an investigator for the Public Defender's office, Brian Nolan. The court considered, among other things, written psychological reports from Dr. Canataro, Dr. Voskanian and Dr. Foley and a discharge report from Mr. Nolan.

According to the testimony and reports, appellant has had issues with sexual deviancy since adolescence. His biological father was an alcoholic, and appellant was placed in a foster home when he was three months old. Appellant's first foster father beat and raped his foster mother in front of appellant when appellant was six or eight years old. When that happened, appellant reported feeling both fear and satisfaction. Appellant would use his foster father's violent tendencies to blackmail his foster mother: "[w]hen I didn't get my way from my foster mother I would tell my foster [father]. He would rape her"; "I wanted her to feel the same way I felt when she said no . . . ."

He was later transferred to a different foster family where he was raped repeatedly by his second foster father and his foster father's son. Appellant also reported being physically abused by both foster families. While living with his second foster family, appellant "set fires, killed kittens and experienced explosive feeling of rage." Appellant committed a rape for the first ...

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