On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Docket No. SVP-201-01.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Parrillo and Alvarez.
V.A.M. appeals from an October 6, 2011 judgment continuing his involuntary commitment to the Special Treatment Unit (STU), pursuant to the New Jersey Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA,) N.J.S.A. 30: 4-27.24 to -27.38. We affirm.
The predicate offense for which forty-six year old V.A.M. is currently committed occurred on April 9, 1992, when V.A.M. sexually assaulted D.G., a twelve year old girl, by anally penetrating her. As a result, V.A.M. pled guilty to one count of aggravated sexual assault and was sentenced to a fifteen-year term, with a five-year mandatory minimum. Although he had been found to be a repetitive and compulsive sex offender and eligible for sentencing to the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center (ADTC), he was sentenced to State prison in accordance with the terms of the plea agreement.
V.A.M. committed the predicate offense while attending outpatient sex offender counseling in accordance with the conditions of his parole for a prior sexually violent crime, that occurred on July 20, 1988, when V.A.M. sexually assaulted Z.C., a six-year old girl, whom he was baby-sitting, by ordering her to pull down her pants and panties and ejaculating between her legs. On November 29, 1988, V.A.M. pled guilty to one count of second-degree sexual assault and on February 16, 1989, was sentenced to a ten-year term of incarceration. He was released on parole on February 14, 1991.
Following completion of his sentence on the April 9, 1992 crime, the State moved for V.A.M.'s commitment under the SVPA. A temporary order of commitment was entered on September 25, 2001, followed by an order of commitment on January 14, 2002. Further review hearings were conducted on September 30, 2003; May 12, 2005; December 1, 2005; June 19, 2006; and October 24, 2008, at which times V.A.M.'s commitment was continued. V.A.M. appealed from the September 30, 2003, June 19, 2006 and October 24, 2008 orders, and we affirmed. In re Civil Commitment of V.A.M., No. A-1650-03 (App. Div. Oct. 13, 2004); In re Civil Commitment of V.A.M., No. A-5766-05 (App. Div. Feb. 15, 2007; In re Civil Commitment of V.A.M., No. A-1711-08 (App. Div. April 24, 2009).
The present appeal arises out of V.A.M.'s most recent review hearing on October 6, 2011. The State presented an expert, Dr. John Zincone, a psychiatrist. Though V.A.M. initially refused to be interviewed for his upcoming review hearing, as he had refused to be interviewed by Dr. Pogos Voskanian for his last review hearing on October 24, 2008, Zincone did have an opportunity to interview V.A.M. on October 13, 2010 and was able to perform an evaluation based on that interview and a review of V.A.M.'s records. During the evaluation, V.A.M. admitted the details of his sexual offenses, but lacked victim empathy and did not take full responsibility for the crimes, according to Zincone.
V.A.M. has a history of depression and there have been indications of suicide attempts in the past. He experiences a "chronic hopelessness" due to the belief he will never be released from STU. These feelings led to some treatment decline and staff members recommended a psychiatric interview and medication and/or participation in a mental health wellness group, which never occurred.
V.A.M. has also suffered from significant alcohol abuse since the age of eighteen and, in fact, he had been drinking prior to both of his sexual assaults. While he is in a substance abuse process group, he has not joined a self-help or 12-step group which, according to Zincone, are critical aids to prevent relapse.
V.A.M. is currently in Phase 2 of treatment, having been demoted from Phase 3 over a year ago. He was recently moved to the south unit at STU, which houses problematic residents.*fn1
According to Zincone, V.A.M. "doesn't see the point in treatment itself, he does the minimum, he doesn't get into his . . . sex offense cycle, his dynamics, he's very difficult to talk [to] about crimes and details. So he's not had a good treatment effect thus far." Zincone further noted that in order to mitigate his risk of re-offending, ...