On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Docket No. SVP-131-00.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Lihotz and St. John.
Appellant T.W. appeals from a judgment entered on October 7, 2011, ordering his continued civil commitment to receive treatment at the Special Treatment Unit (STU) under the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24 to -27.38. The judgment under review was entered after T.W.'s tenth annual review hearing. On appeal, T.W. argues that the State presented insufficient evidence to support his continued civil commitment. After a careful review of the record, we affirm.
The record reveals that in 1974, T.W. committed a series of "cluster" crimes, including violent sexual assaults and attempted sexual assaults, on different female victims in rapid succession, for which he was sentenced to a thirty-year prison term and released on parole in 1983. That same year, while receiving outpatient therapy at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center (ADTC), T.W. was accused of committing another series of sexually violent attacks on women. In 1984, he was convicted of robbery, stemming from charges that he attacked a woman in a parking lot and unsuccessfully tried to wrestle her into a stairwell. The victim escaped, at which point T.W. stole her purse. He was sentenced to a twenty-year prison term. T.W. continues to deny that there was any sexual element to the robbery. He is now fifty-six years old and confined to the STU.
The State petitioned for and obtained T.W.'s civil commitment in 2000. Subsequent review hearings have resulted in continued commitment. T.W. has appealed ten of these orders, and we have affirmed all of them. See In re Civil Commitment of T.Q.W., No. A-3904-04 (App. Div. Nov. 4, 2005); In re Civil Commitment of T.Q.W., No. A-3360-03 (App. Div. Oct. 13, 2004).
The most recent hearing was conducted on September 20, 2011, which resulted in the order continuing commitment before us.
The Legislature's purpose in enacting the SVPA was "to protect other members of society from the danger posed by sexually violent predators." In re Civil Commitment of J.M.B., 197 N.J. 563, 570-71 (2009) (citing N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.25). Thus, the SVPA provides for the involuntary commitment of any person deemed by the court to be a sexually violent predator within the meaning of the statute. N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.32(a). A sexually violent predator is defined as: a person who has been convicted, adjudicated delinquent or found not guilty by reason of insanity for commission of a sexually violent offense . . . and suffers from a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes the person likely to engage in acts of sexual violence if not confined in a secure facility for control, care and treatment. [N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.26.]
"The phrase 'likely to engage in acts of sexual violence' is defined further to mean that 'the propensity of a person to commit acts of sexual violence is of such a degree as to pose a threat to the health and safety of others.'" In re Commitment of W.Z., 173 N.J. 109, 120 (2002) (quoting N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.26).
Involuntary commitment requires the State to prove by "clear and convincing evidence that the individual poses a threat to the health and safety of others," J.M.B., supra, 197 N.J. at 571 (internal citation and quotation marks omitted), because of a "serious difficulty in controlling sexually harmful behavior such that it is highly likely that he or she will not control his or her sexually violent behavior and will reoffend" in the reasonably foreseeable future, W.Z., supra, 173 N.J. at 132. See also In re Civil Commitment of W.X.C., 407 N.J. Super. 619, 631 (App. Div. 2009), aff'd, 204 N.J. 179 (2010), cert. denied, U.S. , 131 S. Ct. 1702, 179 L. Ed. 2d 635 (2011). Furthermore, "the ...