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Criminal Practice – Evidence – ‘Sexually Dangerous Person’ – Civil Commitment Denial

Criminal Practice – Evidence – ‘Sexually Dangerous Person’ – Civil Commitment Denial

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U.S. v. Hall (Lawyers Weekly No. 12-01-0039, 18 pp.) (Traxler, J.) No. 11-7102, Jan. 9, 2012; USDC at Raleigh, N.C. (Boyle, J.) 4th Cir. Click here for the full-text opinion.

Holding: The 4th Circuit affirms a district court finding that the government failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that Clyde M. Hall is a “sexually dangerous person” under the civil commitment procedure in 18 U.S.C. § 4248.

Hall had a history of physical, emotional and sexual abuse as a child. He was banished from his family home at age 16 and supported himself as a prostitute. He was convicted for sexual offenses involving minors in 1989 and in 1999. In 1999, he was convicted on federal charges of possession of child pornography. In 2008, his supervision was revoked for a second time and he also was convicted of failure to register as a sex offender.

Prior to Hall’s projected release date of June 24, 2009, the Bureau of Prisons certified that Hall was a “sexually dangerous person” pursuant to § 4248(a). To obtain a commitment order against Hall, the government was required to establish that he 1) has engaged or attempted to engage in child molestation in the past; 2) currently suffers from a serious mental illness, abnormality or disorder; and 3) as a result, would have serious difficulty in refraining from child molestation if released. Here, there is no dispute as to the first element, and the district court found the government proved the second element, as Hall was diagnosed by several psychologists as suffering from pedophilia and antisocial personality disorder. The dispute here is over the third element.

Three clinical and forensic psychologists evaluated Hall and testified at his evidentiary hearing, two on behalf of the government and one on behalf of Hall. He also testified on his own behalf.

Hall was convicted of two offenses involving child molestation, his last child molestation offense occurred in 1999, and he spent a total of 28 months in the community (between April 2004 and January 2007), after completing the sex offender treatment program at FCI Butner, without any reported hands-on child molestation offense. Also, the district court found Hall credible and relied upon his testimony. Hall testified he is remorseful, understands the damage he caused his prior victims and understands the risk of re-offense. He testified he has developed coping skills to keep him from acting upon his impulses, and successfully employed those skills when he was at liberty.

We cannot say the district court finding that Hall is not sexually dangerous is clearly erroneous.

We affirm the district court order dismissing the government’s commitment action.

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