June 20, 2012
IN THE MATTER OF THE CIVIL COMMITMENT OF C.R.M. SVP-263-02.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Docket No. SVP-263-02.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued May 16, 2012
Before Judges Lihotz and St. John.
C.R.M. appeals from the October 13, 2011 order continuing his involuntary civil commitment to the Special Treatment Unit (STU) as a sexually violent predator pursuant to the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24 to -27.38. C.R.M. argues the State's evidence failed to prove he is highly likely to reoffend, and suggests the record does not support the judge's finding he currently suffers from pedophilia. C.R.M. maintains the evidence demonstrates he is unlikely to reoffend, requiring the entry of an order of conditional discharge. We disagree and affirm.
These facts were presented by the State during the commitment review hearing. In 1988, C.R.M. was charged but acquitted of first-degree aggravated sexual assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2a(1) and/or (2), based on allegations of multiple sexual assaults against his daughter A.B. On May 23, 1994, appellant pled guilty to three counts of first-degree aggravated sexual assault, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2a(1) and/or (2), involving multiple sexual assaults against his three daughters, A.S., R.R., and M.R. The sexual abuse began in 1986, while C.R.M. was on trial for the prior alleged offenses against A.B., lasting until 1991.
According to the victims' accounts, they were extensively sexually abused over a long period of time. For A.S., the abuse endured from age eight to nineteen, during which time C.R.M. performed multiple sex acts upon her and gave her marijuana and cocaine. He began to vaginally penetrate A.S. when she was twelve, and continued until she was nineteen. She became pregnant at age sixteen, however she miscarried. C.R.M. told A.S. that if she told anyone that he was sexually abusing her "[the sisters] would all be separated, placed in foster care, and would never find each other again." C.R.M. also threatened her with a knife in order to gain her sexual compliance, stating that if she did not take off her clothes "he would cut me." A.S. explained that the assaults were frequent, and during certain intervals, occurred nightly.
R.R. reported that C.R.M. began abusing her at age four and that C.R.M. would have sex with her and A.S. simultaneously. According to R.R., C.R.M. performed numerous sex acts upon her, including intercourse, oral sex and sodomy, and at times, this abuse occurred daily. As he did with A.S., C.R.M. threatened R.R. that if she told anyone that he was abusing her, the sisters "would be separated and put into foster homes." . . .
M.R. revealed that C.R.M. started molesting her when she was eleven, and continued to perform numerous sex acts on her for years. C.R.M. frequently "would beat [M.R.] with a belt," hit her "with his hands" and give her bruises. He beat her, "usually . . . right after [M.R.] refused to have sex with him." [In the Matter of the Civil Commitment of C.R.M., No. A-6775-02 (App. Div. March 23, 2006) (slip op. at 3-4).]
C.R.M. was sentenced to an aggregate fifteen-year term.*fn1
Kenneth L. McNeil, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center (ADTC), evaluated C.R.M., concluding he was a "narcissistic, stimulation[-]seeking individual, with pronounced antisocial tendencies, and a history of substance abuse and involvement in the drug trade." Dr. McNeil also determined C.R.M. displayed an "irresistible[,]" "repetitive and compulsive" sexual urge for his daughters. C.R.M. was ordered to serve his sentence at the ADTC.
While at the ADTC, C.R.M. engaged in therapy and treatment. He progressed to Level IV in the spring of 2001. By 2001, he had completed "the psycho-education modules in clear thinking, arousal reconditioning, victim empathy, relapse prevention, and substance abuse." Id. at 6. In addition, C.R.M. ran two peer therapy groups and a self-help group. His test scores continued to reflect a moderate risk for sexual reoffense.
A March 11, 2002 evaluation concluded C.R.M.'s "deviance and his compulsiveness . . . [c]reate enough concern to warrant screening for possible civil commitment[.]" Id. at 7. His crimes were committed over an extended period of time, "with complete disregard for the victims' emotional and physical well being," and the present offenses were committed while he was standing trial "for similar behaviors against a different daughter." Ibid. An evaluation by Vivian Shnaidman, M.D. an ADTC psychiatrist, aligned with this recommendation, concluding "[C.R.M.] does not appear to take any responsibility for his sex offending behavior, repeatedly blaming the victims, their mothers, society, his own upbringing, and others." Ibid.
The State's petition for C.R.M.'s civil commitment was granted on July 7, 2003, based upon a finding that if C.R.M. was released within the reasonably foreseeable future, it was "highly likely" he would "continue the kind of sex abuse . . . he performed in the past." Id. at 14. Furthermore, Judge Freedman determined the evidence showed that C.R.M. had a "serious inability to control his behavior" and was "predisposed" to engage in these sexual acts. Ibid. We affirmed the judgment of civil commitment. Id. at 20.
In each of the subsequent reviews, C.R.M.'s continued civil commitment was ordered. Judgments entered on June 14, 2003, October 6, 2006, and February 7, 2008 were affirmed on appeal. In re Civil Commitment of C.R.M., No. A-6775-02 (App. Div. March 23, 2006); In re Civil Commitment of C.R.M., No. A-1529-06 (App. Div. June 20, 2007); In the Matter of the Civil Commitment of C.R.M., No. A-3348-07 (App. Div. Dec. 17, 2008).
The most recent review hearing was held on October 13, 2011. The State's expert testimony included Nicole Paolillo, Psy.D., a psychologist and member of the Treatment Progress Review Committee, and Pogos Voskanian, M.D., a psychiatrist working at the STU.
Dr. Paolillo reviewed C.R.M.'s progress treatment notes as of September 20, 2011, and attempted to conduct a formal interview, which C.R.M. declined, but they did talk informally for ten minutes. Dr. Paolillo testified C.R.M. had "been consistently performing very poorly" with his treatment "over the past few years" noting "he's not actively taking the floor [and] not at a level that is consistent with an individual who is meaningfully engaged[.]" Further, she noted "[h]is attention is not on his own treatment needs, but instead on those of his peers, which does not facilitate his learning to the level that would be expected in order to maintain his phase." C.R.M. missed many group sessions and was released from modules because of his poor attendance.
Dr. Paolillo opined C.R.M. shows "frustration or intolerance for females" and he "expressed a great deal of anger towards" one of his female treatment providers. She concluded "[h]e needs to address his feelings towards woman as they are greatly impeding his ability to engage."
Dr. Voskanian testified C.R.M. last met with him in 2003, and has since refused to meet. His report suggested C.R.M.'s long history of sexual abuse points to a more complex pathology than merely incest, involving the "more complex dynamics of arousal to a blood related relative. And in this case it is mixed with pedophilic arousal based on the age of the children." Dr. Voskanian testified C.R.M. still denies the number of victims "despite victim accounts [and] . . . he minimizes" what took place, showing "no remorse" and "continu[ing] to display poor judgment and a level of aggression that is not acceptable." Dr. Voskanian diagnosed C.R.M. with pedophilia (sexually attracted to females), a personality disorder with anti-social traits, and substance abuse problems (predominately cocaine and alcohol).
In an oral opinion issued on October 13, 2011, Judge Freedman accepted the State's experts' testimony and determined C.R.M.'s current behavior was not "the conduct of a person who has internalized all of this treatment which he says that he has taken." C.R.M. has "not discussed all the details of his offending" and "needs to do so" to progress in his treatment. Judge Freedman concluded C.R.M. was "highly dangerous and destructive to children" and the evidence demonstrated
C.R.M. does in fact suffer from a mental abnormality and a personality disorder that effect him emotionally, cognitively and volitionally to such a degree that individually and in -- particularly in combination, they predispose him to engage in acts of sexual violence[.]
[Further,] he would have serious difficult[y] controlling his sexually violent behavior [and is] highly likely to reoffend.
An involuntary civil commitment can follow service of a sentence, or other criminal disposition, when the offender "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 State must address the committee's "present serious difficulty with control," and must establish, by clear and convincing evidence, there is a threat [to the health and safety of others because of the likelihood of his or her engaging in sexually violent acts] by demonstrating that the individual has 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 re Commitment of W.Z., 173 N.J. 109, 132-33 (2002).]
Accord In re Commitment of J.H.M., 367 N.J. Super. 599, 607-08 (App. Div. 2003), certif. denied, 179 N.J. 312 (2004).
Our review of these findings is extremely narrow. In re Civil Commitment of V.A., 357 N.J. Super. 55, 63 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 177 N.J. 490 (2003). We may modify an order "only where the record reveals a clear abuse of discretion." In re Commitment of J.P., 339 N.J. Super. 443, 459 (App. Div. 2001).
C.R.M. has committed the requisite predicate sexually violent offense. See N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.26(a). He is currently diagnosed as suffering from a mental disorder, including pedophilia, anti-social personality disorder, and suffers severe substance abuse. While C.R.M. has progressed in some areas of treatment, he has faired poorly in his overall progress and he continues to display anger toward women, demonstrates a lack of remorse for his actions, reflects an absence of empathy for the horror he caused his victims, and refuses to acknowledge the impact of his offending behaviors. C.R.M.'s refusal to engage in treatment diminishes any ability to change.
Judge Freedman's factual findings that the State proved by clear and convincing evidence C.R.M.'s high risk to re-offend if released from the controlled environment of the STU, which required his continued civil commitment for treatment is supported by substantial, credible evidence in the record. Rova Farms Resort, Inc. v. Investors Ins. Co. of Am., 65 N.J. 474, 483-84 (1974). Accordingly, we affirm the October 13, 2011 order continuing the involuntary civil commitment of C.R.M. to the STU, substantially for the reasons expressed by Judge Freedman in his oral opinion.