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In the Matter of the Civil Commitment of

March 28, 2012


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, SVP-465-07.

Per curiam.



Submitted: March 7, 2012

Before Judges Axelrad and Ostrer.

J.H.R. appeals from the November 13, 2007 order of the Law Division that committed him to the Special Treatment Unit (STU), a secure custodial facility for the treatment of persons in need of involuntary civil commitment, as a sexually violent predator pursuant to the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24 to -27.38.*fn1 We affirm.

Appellant is a forty-nine-year-old convicted serial molester of pre-pubescent children. In l987, appellant was accused of sexual acts against his six-year-old niece, after the child was found with her pants down, but charges were never pressed. On October 12, 1989, appellant pled guilty to one count each of second-degree and fourth-degree sexual assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2b, in connection with an incident occurring in June 1988, involving the same victim and her four-year-old sister. They reported that appellant had entered their room and touched their private parts, causing pain in the areas of contact. The four-year-old stated that appellant stuck his finger in her "hole" and put his hands in her shorts. She then watched him do the same to her sister, who reported that appellant unzipped her pants and digitally penetrated her vaginally and then anally. Appellant refused to stop when requested to do so by the young girls. A medical examination confirmed the molestation. Defendant was sentenced on March 26, 1990 to two concurrent three-year custodial terms.

On December 22, 2003, appellant pled guilty to second-degree sexual assault on T.A., the ten-year-old daughter of a friend of his, who had Down Syndrome. While she was visiting her father in July 2002, appellant took T.A. into the bathroom, pulled down her pants, made her lay on the floor, and penetrated her vaginally with his penis. Appellant admitted to having sexual contact with T.A. by rubbing his penis against her but claimed T.A. approached him and rubbed her buttocks against his penis. He was unsure how his penis became exposed during the encounter. Appellant was sentenced on April l6, 2004 to five years at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center (ADTC). This was appellant's predicate sexually violent offense for civil commitment under the SVPA. See N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.26.

In July 2007, the State filed a petition for civil commitment pursuant to the SVPA. The State presented the testimony of Dr. Brian Friedman, a psychologist, and Dr. Luis Zeiguer, a psychiatrist, at the hearings conducted on October 30 and November 7, 2007. Appellant elected not to present any witnesses or expert testimony on his behalf.

Dr. Friedman performed a clinical interview of appellant on October 22, 2007, and reviewed a variety of medical evaluations and reports, including appellant's treatment records and related documents from ADTC, criminal records and DYFS investigations, and educational reports. Dr. Friedman's most significant diagnosis of appellant was pedophilia, sexually attracted to females, not limited to incest, as well as personality disorder N.O.S. with schizotypal, paranoid, and anti-social features, and mild mental retardation. Dr. Friedman concluded that appellant suffered from a mental abnormality or personality disorder affecting him emotionally, cognitively, or volitionally so as to predispose him to commit acts of sexual violence.

While crediting appellant with having the ability to function in an apparent crime-free manner between his release from his l989 conviction and his 2002 offense, Dr. Friedman noted that the passage of time clearly did not extinguish appellant's arousal toward pre-pubescent girls. The psychologist expressed a concern that appellant "escalated and expanded his [] potential victim pool" from related children to unrelated victims, which "creates a potentially larger pool of victims that need to be safeguarded against [appellant's] deviant sexual urges" and "makes even closer . . . observation necessary."

Dr. Friedman was also concerned by appellant's behavior at the ADTC, during which he exhibited "poor judgment," "aggressive[]" behavior, and no "ability to accurately interpret situations and see them through [to] their logical consequence."

Dr. Friedman scored appellant in the medium-high range of offenders in the Static-99 test. Dr. Friedman noted that appellant denied having committed sexual offenses when he entered the ADTC, when he left, and during their interview. Accordingly, appellant's participation in treatment was minimal and, as emphasized by Dr. Friedman, appellant did not learn "interventions" and "ways" to mitigate his risk to sexually reoffend.

Appellant refused to be interviewed by Dr. Zeiguer on two occasions, July 24 and October 26, 2007; nevertheless, the psychiatrist was able to render an opinion within a reasonable degree of medical certainty based on his review of source documents. His opinion remained unchanged after he read Dr. Friedman's October 2007 report, which included an account of the psychologist's interview with appellant. He rendered a similar diagnosis as Dr. Friedman and also expressed the opinion that appellant's personality disorder predisposed him to commit acts of sexual violence. Based on appellant's criminal history, the psychiatrist concluded that "if [appellant were] given unsupervised access to children, he would molest them." Dr. Zeiguer opined that appellant would reoffend if he were not confined to a secure ...

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