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In the Matter of the Civil Commitment of M.F.C.

November 19, 2012


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Docket No. SVP-303-02.

Per curiam.



Argued October 15, 2012

Before Judges Parrillo and Sabatino.

M.F.C. appeals from an order entered on July 25, 2012, continuing his civil commitment at the Special Treatment Unit ("STU") pursuant to the Sexually Violent Predator Act, N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24 to -27.38 ("SVPA"). After reviewing the record in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we affirm.

Appellant, who is presently sixty-one years of age, has a history of multiple convictions for sexual crimes and other offenses. Between 1981 and 1986, M.F.C. committed four aggravated sexual offenses on women who were between the ages of fifty and eighty-three. Appellant also has been found guilty of several drug-related crimes and other offenses. After he was convicted of the sexual offenses, appellant was initially imprisoned at East Jersey State Prison. In 1997, he was transferred to the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center ("ADTC").

Shortly before appellant's custodial sentence ended in 2003, the State petitioned for and obtained an order for his civil commitment to the STU pursuant to the SVPA. Appellant's commitment has been periodically reviewed since that time, resulting in orders continuing his commitment. We have affirmed those orders several times on appeal. See In re Commitment of M.F.C., No. A-4684-08 (App. Div. Oct. 6. 2009); In re Commitment of M.F.C., No. A-2611-06 (App. Div. May 8, 2007); In re Commitment of M.F.C., No. A-6312-03 (App. Div. May 25, 2005). In each such prior appeal, we sustained the trial court's finding that M.F.C. continues to meet the criteria for commitment under the SVPA and is "highly likely" to reoffend if released. See In re Commitment of W.Z., 173 N.J. 109, 132 (2002) (holding that to commit an individual under the SVPA, the State must prove he or she is highly likely to be unable to control his or her sexually violent behavior and will reoffend).

M.F.C.'s present appeal arises out of a review hearing conducted on July 25, 2012 before the Hon. James F. Mulvihill, J.S.C. The State presented two expert witnesses, Dr. Marta Scott, a psychiatrist, and Dr. Nicole Paolillo, a psychologist. The State also relied upon a May 3, 2012 annual evaluation of appellant prepared by the Treatment Progress Review Committee ("TPRC") within the STU. Appellant presented a competing expert witness, Dr. Christopher Lorah, a psychologist, and also a series of written reports prepared by Dr. Lorah.

Appellant's sexual history, as described within Dr. Scott's report, indicates that he was abused by an older woman when he was four or five and also was abused while in juvenile detention at the age of fourteen. He still reported an urge to masturbate, although he has trouble doing so because of his anti-depressant medication. He denied, however, entertaining violent rape fantasies or fantasizing about his rape victims.

Dr. Scott's report also indicated that appellant has a girlfriend, who at the time the report was prepared was under probation for drug trafficking and was sharing a household with her son who is a drug addict. A discharge planning assessment form dated June 19, 2012 indicated that the appellant had listed this individual as his "best friend/girlfriend." This disclosure concerned Dr. Scott as a high-risk situation, as Dr. Scott anticipated that appellant would likely rely heavily on the girlfriend for support if he were to be discharged from the STU, and because appellant failed to see the danger in such reliance given his predisposition to drug abuse.

Dr. Scott reviewed appellant's treatment reports from the STU since he was admitted in 2003, which revealed that in 2006 he had advanced to Phase Three of his treatment. However, in December 2007, appellant was placed on the Modified Activities Program ("MAP"), as a result of the discovery of marijuana in his room and also because he had repeatedly refused to comply with urine drug screening tests. In 2008, appellant again refused a urine drug screening.

By 2009, appellant was considered for advancement to Phase Four of treatment, but the TPRC recommended that he remain in Phase Three. That same year, the appellant was scored as being in the moderately high range of psychopathy.

In 2010, appellant was admitted to the Therapeutic Community ("TC") at the STU. Although he had consistent attendance in the TC, he failed the treatment module on Substance Abuse Relapse Prevention. On April 8, 2011 and April 11, 2011 ...

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