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In the Matter of the Civil Commitment of

April 11, 2012


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Docket No. SVP-223-02.

Per curiam.



Argued March 19, 2012 --

Before Judges Parrillo and Alvarez.

R.M.W. appeals from an April 27, 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.

At age sixty-six, R.M.W. has amassed an extensive criminal history. Between 1965 and 1996, he was arrested approximately thirty-eight times, resulting in eighteen convictions, three of which were related to sexual conduct: a 1978 incident led a jury to convict him of lewdness and atrocious assault and battery; a 1988 incident led him to plead guilty to second-degree sexual assault by force or coercion; and a 1995 incident led him to plead guilty to criminal restraint of a woman whom he held while exposing himself. R.M.W.'s predicate offenses are detailed in this court's decision affirming his commitment pursuant to the SVPA. In re Civil Commitment of R.M.W., No. A-6243-01 (App. Div. Nov. 29, 2004) (slip op. at 2-7).

Since his initial commitment in 2002, R.M.W. has had multiple review hearings, each concluding that the State had satisfied the requirements for his continued commitment. We affirmed the judgments on the two occasions when R.M.W. appealed. In re Civil Commitment of R.M.W., No. A-2477-05 (App. Div. Dec. 4, 2006); In re Civil Commitment of R.M.W., No. A-4419-06 (App. Div. Nov. 15, 2007).

R.M.W.'s most recent review hearings, and the subject of this appeal, occurred on April 8 and 27, 2011. Dr. Pogos H. Voskanian, M.D., and Dr. Jamie Canataro, Pys.D., testified for the State and Dr. Christopher P. Lorah, Ph.D. testified on behalf of R.M.W.

Dr. Voskanian diagnosed R.M.W. with paraphilia NOS, alcohol dependence in controlled environment, polysubstance abuse in controlled environment, and antisocial personality disorder. During his interview with Voskanian, R.M.W. denied committing any sexual offenses and avoided discussion of his sexual history despite having "displayed excessive violence and aggression during his assaults." He appeared to "agree to be interviewed for the sake of formality since he was recommended to be interviewed by his attorney." Voskanian concluded that R.M.W. has "an abnormality and personality disorder that place him at high risk to engage in sexual violence if he is not confined in a secure facility for control, care and treatment[,]" and neither his age nor medical condition mitigate his high risk of sexually violent recidivism.

Moreover, R.M.W. has been refusing treatment at STU. He "remains on Treatment Refusal Status and was recently place[d] on MAP status secondary to aggressive behavior at the STU." According to Voskanian, R.M.W.'s "degree of progress is consistent with him being in Phase 2 of treatment in 2002 and Phase 1 in 2011. He refuses to discuss his offenses, "does not attend any substance abuse related modules and is not utilizing any self help groups despite his history of substance dependence. He remains [an] untreated sex offender with persisting high risk factors for sexual recidivism."

Canataro diagnosed R.M.W. with alcohol dependence, antisocial personality disorder, borderline intellectual functioning and R/O mild mental retardation. She confirmed that R.M.W. has been in Treatment Removal status since October 2007 and rarely participates in group therapy, as he has difficulty getting along with other residents. During this review period, R.M.W. was placed on MAP status for harassing someone outside the facility by telephone, and his privileges were suspended from November 15, 2010 until December 15, 2010.

Canataro recommended R.M.W. continue in Phase 1 of treatment with consistent attendance in his process group and recommended modules. Furthermore, Canataro recommended that since R.M.W.'s sexual offenses appear more driven by general antisociality than clearly diagnosable sexual pathology, the focus of future treatment should be on general criminogenic needs, concentrating on general aggressiveness, attitudes tolerant of sexual assault, impulse control, frustration tolerance, and emotional regulation. Canataro ultimately concluded that "[d]espite his age and medical conditions, [R.M.W.'s] behavior, resistance to treatment in this secure facility, and the many factors, as mentioned above, in his history related to sexual recidivism[,] strongly suggest that his risk has not yet been mitigated in any significant fashion."

Dr. Lorah, on the other hand, diagnosed R.M.W. with major depressive disorder, recurrent, mild, noncompliance with treatment, antisocial personality disorder in the provisional form, adult antisocial behavior, and borderline intellectual functioning. Lorah opined that "[t]here are no clear indications that [R.M.W.] has volitional deficits that appreciably compromise his ...

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