Conditional Discharge Upheld: NJ Appellate Court Affirms Decision on Sexually Violent Predator’s Appeal.
Docket No. A-2213-21
Decided July 3, 2023
Submitted by New Jersey Sex Crime Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark
In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Court of New Jersey decided appellant’s appeal from a Law Division order which found him to be a sexually violent predator and continued his conditional discharge from the Special Treatment Unit (STU) pursuant to the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24 to – 27.38.1.
R.M.T. was committed to the STU in 2004 pursuant to the SVPA. Following annual review hearings, R.M.T.’s commitment has since continued. R.M.T. was committed after he was adjudicated guilty for committing acts, that if committed by an adult, would have constituted sexual assault against his two juvenile sisters. Later, R.M.T. admitted to sexually assaulting twenty-nine other children, both boys and girls, as well as committing sexual acts with two family pets.
R.M.T. was conditionally discharged from STU in May 2017. Since 2019, R.M.T. has been married and has lived with his wife. In 2020, R.M.T. was no longer subject to electronic monitoring and his “call-ins” to the Community Resource Team (CRT) were reduced from weekly to biweekly.
At a March 2022 review hearing, R.M.T. filed an application for the removal of the conditional discharge. Appellant offered expert testimony from a psychologist who indicated that appellant had been compliant with the requirements of his conditional discharge, which included, attending a substance abuse program (Alcoholics Anonymous), and sex offender specific treatment; had a stable home situation; employment stability; and family and community support. Additionally, the psychologist testified that R.M.T. has had a significant treatment effect both with the STU and maintaining healthy relationships. The expert concluded her testimony by opining that the removal of appellant’s conditional discharge would not jeopardize community safety and he will remain less than highly likely to reoffend without court or parole supervision.
The State’s expert psychologist noted concerns about appellant’s earlier violation of conditions barring him from viewing pornography, as well as his permitted regular, supervised contact with his niece and nephew. The expert testified that if the conditional discharge were to be eliminated, appellant would be permitted to have unsupervised contacts with minors. The State’s expert opined that based on R.M.T.’s history and overall risk profile, the continuation of a gradual de-escalation of restraints is most appropriate under psychological standards. The State’s expert recommended that appellant be afforded a reduction to monthly CRT contacts, and that his therapy sessions be reduced from weekly to biweekly, with all other conditions remaining in place. The Trial court found by clear and convincing evidence that R.M.T. had been convicted of a sexually violent offense and continued to suffer from mental conditions or abnormalities that rendered him highly likely to commit a sexually violent offense if released to the community without condition and denied his application to terminate his conditional discharge. R.M.T. appealed.
On appeal, R.M.T. contended that the State failed to show by clear and convincing evidence that he was highly likely to reoffend in the foreseeable future because the judge erred in his presumption that R.M.T. needed to continue to participate in parole monitoring and outpatient sex offender treatment given his expert’s testimony that he had been under conditions well beyond what was necessary to prevent a future act of sexual violence.
After considering the arguments of the parties, the Appellate Court ultimately determined that appellant’s argument lacked merit and the trial court’s decision was affirmed. The court noted that the trial judge supported his decision to modify some terms of the conditional discharge and to keep some intact. Moreover, when considering the opposing expert opinions, the court stated that although he respected R.M.T.’s expert’s opinion, he did not agree that R.M.T. no longer presented a risk to reoffend if released without conditions. Finally, the court found that the trial court’s conclusions were amply supported by the evidence presented at the commitment hearing and consistent with the law governing SVPA proceedings. Thus, the Appellate Court was satisfied the trial judge appropriately considered the credible evidence in the record and determined that R.M.T. should remain subject to some aspects of the conditional discharge. As a result, there was no abuse of the judge’s discretion in ordering R.M.T.’s continued conditional discharge under the SVPA.
At Hark & Hark, we are experienced attorneys who represent clients in Superior Court for issues like the previously discussed case pertaining to applications for removal of a conditional discharge from the Special Treatment Unit. We work hard to ensure that our clients receive exceptional representation in order for them to receive the most favorable outcome in their case as a result.
We offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you are facing a similar situation to that of the defendant in this case, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic County, Bergen County, Burlington County, Camden County, Cape May County, Cumberland County, Essex County, Gloucester County, Hudson County, Hunterdon County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Morris County, Ocean County, Passaic County, Salem County, Somerset County, Sussex County, Union County, and Warren County and any town including Audubon, Gloucester City, Oaklyn, Audubon Park, Gloucester Township, Pennsauken, Barrington, Haddon Heights, Pine Hill, Bellmawr, Haddon Township, Pine Valley, Berlin Borough, Haddonfield, Runnemede, Berlin Township, Hi-Nella, Somerdale, Brooklawn, Laurel Springs, Stratford, Camden, Lawnside, Voorhees, Cherry Hill, Lindenwold, Waterford, Chesilhurst, Magnolia, Winslow, Clementon, Merchantville, Woodlynne, Collingswood, Mt. Ephraim, and Gibbsboro.