On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Docket No. SVP-508-08.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Graves and Koblitz.
J.E. appeals from the June 30, 2009 order granting the Attorney General's petition for involuntary civil commitment pursuant to the New Jersey Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24 to 27.38, following the completion of J.E.'s sentence of five years in prison with two and one-half years of parole ineligibility as a result of his guilty plea to second-degree luring or enticing a child, N.J.S.A. 2C:13-16; third-degree attempted endangering the welfare of a child, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1 and 2C:24-4a; and a fourth-degree firearms offense, N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3c(1). After reviewing the contentions advanced on appeal in light of the facts and relevant law, we affirm.
J.E.'s offense history consists of seventeen adult arrests, resulting in convictions for eight offenses. His convictions include three counts of distribution of controlled dangerous substances and one count each of aggravated sexual assault, aggravated assault, criminal trespass, criminal sexual contact, and simple assault.
An Internet sting resulted in J.E.'s most recent convictions. A Passaic County Sheriff's officer posing as a twelve-year-old girl communicated with J.E. in explicit sexual language over the Internet and by telephone. Believing that he was communicating with a girl under the age of thirteen, J.E. arranged a meeting with her for the purpose of engaging in sexual relations.
After arresting J.E., the police searched his home and seized an unlicensed twelve-gauge shotgun, bags containing suspected marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
In 1978, J.E., who was seventeen years old at the time, was adjudicated a delinquent for forcibly engaging in sexual intercourse with a thirteen-year-old female acquaintance. He was sentenced to one year of probation.
In 1980, J.E. was arrested and charged with aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, and robbery of a female acquaintance. A jury convicted J.E. of aggravated sexual assault in 1981, but we reversed the conviction and remanded for a new trial. After a re-trial in 1983, a jury convicted him of sexual assault.
After the 1981 conviction, a doctor at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center who examined him noted that J.E. "displayed a severe deficit in social judgment along with a dangerous lack of regard for the consequences of his actions." The examiner further opined that J.E.'s personality contained a "potent narcissistic element," as evidenced by his comments that "[the victim] was 'town property' and[,] therefore, at his sexual disposal on the basis of his whim." The examiner stressed that "[t]he strongly-implied, anti-social themes in [J.E.'s] test responses are generally associated with the probability of further criminal behavior in the near future, and therefore, he is a danger to those around him." The examiner determined, however, that there was no clinical evidence to show that J.E.'s sexual assault was "part of a repetitive and compulsive pattern of behavior[.]" J.E. served his sentence and was returned to prison in September 1986 when he violated his parole. He was released in November 1989.
Four months later, in March 1990, J.E. assaulted a pregnant acquaintance in her apartment while her infant child was sleeping nearby. The victim managed to deter J.E. from further assaults by biting him. A jury convicted J.E. of forcible sexual contact, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2c, and simple assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1a(1). J.E. was sentenced to fifteen months in prison for the criminal sexual contact conviction and six months for simple assault. He was released on April 25, 1992.
In 2000, J.E. was acquitted at trial on charges he sexually assaulted a thirteen-year-old girl on numerous occasions.
In February 2005, police arrested J.E. for arranging a meeting with the officer posing as a twelve-year-old girl with the intent to engage in sexual relations.
In support of its petition under the SVPA, the State presented the testimony of Dr. Pogos Voskanian, a psychiatrist. Three psychologists testified on J.E.'s behalf: Dr. Brian Friedman, Dr. Jeffrey Singer, and Dr. Timothy Foley.
Dr. Voskanian's testimony began with a review of J.E.'s criminal sexual offenses. This review included a mention of the 2000 arrest and acquittal. Dr. Voskanian admitted to considering it in formulating his report, but clarified that it did not influence his opinions or recommendation on the matter.
Dr. Voskanian first discussed the 1978 offense. He stressed the significance of J.E.'s young age when he committed the offense. He opined that this "early onset of sexually acting out and violent behaviors" generally predicts a poor prognosis.
With respect to the 1980 offense, Dr. Voskanian determined that its close temporal proximity to the 1978 offense was evidence that (1) J.E. has a strong urge to commit sexual offenses; (2) he disregards the law; and (3) he is unable to appreciate the consequences of his actions. Dr. Voskanian also noted that J.E. was on probation for drug and larceny offenses when he committed the 1980 offense, which he believes "points to sexual pathology . . . [a] need to violate someone . . . [it] points to a very strong urge to commit a similar offense." Moreover, he testified that J.E. denied all wrongdoing and claimed the sex was consensual.
As to the 1990 offense, Dr. Voskanian pointed out its similarities to the 1980 offense, most notably the significant degree of force and violence used against the victim. The doctor testified that J.E. again denied all wrongdoing and claimed the intimacy was consensual.
Dr. Voskanian's testimony also addressed the 2000 arrest, but only to note the age of the alleged victim and the short time between his acquittal on these charges and his arrest in February 2005.
Dr. Voskanian next expressed his determination concerning the 2005 arrest and J.E.'s version of events. Dr. Voskanian found it significant that J.E. had historically pleaded not guilty to the earlier sexual charges against him, but pled guilty to the 2005 luring offense. This was the first time that J.E. was forced to acknowledge the strength of the State's case against him and forego a trial. Despite pleading guilty, Dr. Voskanian explained that J.E. maintained his innocence and claimed to make sexual requests only after he had surmised that he was communicating with an adult who was merely playing the role of a twelve-year-old girl.
Dr. Voskanian also discussed J.E.'s explanation of events on the day of his arrest in 2005. J.E. asserted that he had no intention of meeting anybody and suspected the meeting was a set-up, but drove forty ...