This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. ß 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).

 

 

STATE OF MINNESOTA

IN COURT OF APPEALS

A05-1271

 

 

In the Matter of the Civil Commitment of
Dale Allen Williams, Sr.

 

 

Filed December 20, 2005

Affirmed

Wright, Judge

 

Carlton County District Court

File No. PR-04-1790

 

 

Keith M. Carlson, 807 Cloquet Avenue, P.O. Box 770, Cloquet, MN† 55720 (for appellant)

 

Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Angela Helseth, Assistant Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN† 55101-2134 (for respondent)

 

 

††††††††††† Considered and decided by Hudson, Presiding Judge; Klaphake, Judge; and Wright, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D †O P I N I O N

WRIGHT, Judge

Appellant challenges the district courtís order for indeterminate commitment as a sexually dangerous person and a sexual psychopathic personality, arguing that the district court erred in finding that he lacks power to control his sexual impulses and is likely to engage in future acts of harmful sexual conduct.† We affirm.

FACTS

Appellant Dale Williams, Sr. has a history of sexual abuse, particularly involving young girls.† Williamsís most recent period of incarceration began in 1998.† ††Between 1968 and 1998, Williams sexually abused seven known victims.† Williams admits sexually touching only two of the seven victims.

Between 1968 and 1978, Williams sexually abused his niece, R.B., on an ongoing basis beginning when she was three years old and ending when she was twelve.† Williams admitted that he performed oral sex on his niece, touched her vagina and breasts, and rubbed his penis on her.† He described this sexual abuse as normal sexual experimentation.† ††

In 1991, Williams sexually abused his three-year-old daughter, A.W.† Williams claimed that he was trying to determine which sexual acts his daughter had observed her mother and her motherís boyfriend perform.† Williams performed oral sex on his daughter, rubbed his penis near her vagina, digitally penetrated her vagina, and put his penis in her mouth. †A.W. reported that Williams also penetrated her vagina with his penis, but he denied this.†

During the same period in late 1991, three young girls who were Williamsís neighbors, H.G., H.H., and A.E., reported that Williams offered them money to look at their bare buttocks.† H.G. reported that Williams offered her a quarter to touch her genitals.† Although H.G. said no, Williams touched her genitals anyway.† Williams denied offering the children money to look at their genitals and claimed that any touching was an accidental result of tickling or bouncing the girls on his lap.†

Williams pleaded guilty to four counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct as a result of his contact with A.W., H.G., H.H., and A.E. †He was incarcerated until January 1995 and completed three sex-offender-treatment programs during his incarceration.

After his release, Williams lived in two halfway houses in Duluth. †During this time, Williams began to date D.B. and have contact with her daughters aged fourteen, ten, and seven.† Because having contact with children was a violation of his conditional release, Williams returned to prison in July 1995 to complete his sentence for the 1992 convictions.† Williams began seeing D.B. again after his release.

In September 1997, Williams sexually abused D.B.ís daughter, S.L.B.† Williams claimed that he touched S.L.Bís breast area accidentally while roughhousing.† S.L.B. testified at Williamsís civil commitment hearing that Williams touched her breasts under her clothes and her vaginal area over her clothes.† S.L.B. reported that the sexual abuse occurred at least four times. †Williams pleaded guilty to second-degree criminal sexual conduct and served a sentence for that offense until October 2004 when this civil commitment procedure was initiated.

On October 6, 2004, Carlton County Social Services petitioned to commit Williams as a sexually dangerous person (SDP) and a sexual psychopathic personality (SPP), as defined by Minn. Stat. ßß 253B.02, subds. 18b, 18c (2004). †The district court appointed Dr. Paul Reitman and Dr. James Alsdurf to examine Williams and to submit written reports addressing whether Williams was an SDP or SPP. †Each doctor interviewed Williams, reviewed records of Williamsís criminal activity, and submitted a report to the district court.†

A civil commitment hearing was held in February 2005.† Williams, Dr. Reitman, and Dr. Alsdurf testified at the hearing.† In addition, victims D.W. and S.L.B. testified regarding Williamsís sexual abuse.†

The district court concluded that there was clear and convincing evidence that Williams had engaged in a course of harmful sexual conduct and a habitual course of sexual misconduct.† The district court also determined that Williams did not offer any evidence to rebut the presumption that his conduct was likely to cause serious physical or emotional harm to his victims.† After the district court concluded that Williams satisfied the requirements for commitment as an SDP and an SPP, the district court committed Williams to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP).†

On April 28, 2005, MSOP filed a treatment report, as required under Minn. Stat. ß 253B.18, subd. 2 (2004), recommending additional treatment in the MSOP.

The district court held a final commitment hearing on May 13, 2005.† The district court concluded that Williams continued to meet the requirements for commitment as an SDP and an SPP.† Concluding that MSOP was the appropriate and least restrictive alternative available to provide confinement, care, and treatment to Williams, the district court ordered Williams indeterminately committed.† This appeal followed.†††

D E C I S I O N

Williams contends that the district court (1) erred by adopting verbatim the stateís proposed findings and conclusions; (2) made erroneous findings regarding three victims that are not supported by the record; and (3) failed to give appropriate consideration to Williamsís testimony.† Williams also argues that he is not highly likely to reoffend, and accordingly the requirements for commitment as an SDP and SPP are not met.

We review the district courtís factual findings for clear error, deferring to the district courtís credibility determinations and its resolution of conflicting evidence. †Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01; In re Joelson, 385 N.W.2d 810, 811 (Minn. 1986); In re Preston, 629 N.W.2d 104, 110 (Minn. App. 2001).† We do not reweigh the evidence; rather, we review de novo whether the evidence as a whole provides substantial support for the district courtís legal conclusions that the statutory grounds for commitment as an SDP and an SPP have been met.† In re Linehan, 557 N.W.2d 171, 189 (Minn. 1996); In re Civil Commitment of Martin, 661 N.W.2d 632, 638 (Minn. App. 2003), review denied (Minn. Aug. 5, 2003).

I.

Williams urges us to hold that it is reversible error per se for the district court to adopt verbatim the stateís proposed findings of facts, conclusions of law, and order.† To do so would contravene well-established precedent.† Although viewed with disapproval, the practice of adopting verbatim a partyís proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law is not reversible error per se.† Bliss v. Bliss, 493 N.W.2d 583, 590 (Minn. App. 1992) (citing Sigurdson v. Isanti County, 408 N.W.2d 654, 657 (Minn. App. 1987), review denied (Minn. Aug. 19, 1987)), review denied (Minn. Feb. 12, 1993).† But the district court ďmust scrupulously assure that findings and conclusionsówhether they be the courtís alone, one or the other partyís, or a combinationóare always detailed, specific and sufficient enough to enable meaningful review by [an appellate] court.Ē† Id.

Williams contends that the district court ďdid not take the necessary time to carefully review all of the testimony and exhibits.Ē† Indeed, the record is voluminous, comprising more than 2,000 pages of trial testimony and exhibits.† And the order, as proposed by the state and adopted by the district court, is comprehensive, containing 285 findings of fact that are supported by both documentary evidence and testimony.† As such, these findings are more than sufficient to foster meaningful appellate review.† The district court issued its order approximately one month after the commitment hearing concluded.† And the district court states in the order that it ďcarefully reviewed the proposed findings of fact submitted by [the state]Ē and that those findings ďaccurately, completely, and properly describe the evidence presented at the trial in this matter.Ē† Thus, we conclude that Williamsís contention that the district court had an inadequate amount of time to review the record lacks merit.† And we decline to hold that the district courtís verbatim adoption of the stateís proposed findings is per se reversible error.†

Williams also argues that the inclusion of a reference to a possible abuse victim named Denise evinced the district courtís lack of independent review and was prejudicial.† In its findings, the district court describes the allegations made by Williamsís ex-wife that he had sexually abused his niece, Denise, when she was fourteen or fifteen years old.† The district court notes that Williams denies having a niece named Denise without rendering any conclusions based on this testimony. †Without more, the district courtís reference to a disputed fact was not reversible error.

††††††††††† Williams asserts that the district court erred because it failed to wait until each party had an opportunity to respond to the otherís proposed findings before rendering its decision.† The district court instructed the parties to submit their proposed findings by February 28, 2005, with any response due by March 7.† The district court issued its order on March 4, 2005, three days before the responses were due.† Williams did not attempt to submit a response before or after the due date, nor did he make a posthearing motion regarding the abbreviated filing schedule.† See Bliss, 493 N.W.2d at 590 (encouraging parties to make proper posttrial motions to district court).†

††††††††††† The civil-commitment procedure requires the district court to conduct a review hearing after the 60-day report is filed by MSOP.† Minn. Stat. ß 253B.18, subd. 2 (2004).† The purpose of that hearing is to ďmake a final determination as to whether the person should remain committed . . . .Ē† Id.† The district court held the 60-day review hearing for Williams on May 13, 2005.† Any response to the stateís proposed findings could have been submitted before or during the 60-day review hearing.† By issuing its order adopting the stateís findings before the response deadline, the district court did not prevent Williams from making a specific record of his objections.† As Williams has not articulated any prejudice suffered by the district courtís decision to issue the order early, we are unable to ascertain any prejudicial error.†

II.

††††††††††† Williams next challenges the evidentiary basis for certain factual determinations made by the district court.†

First, Williams contends that the district courtís finding that he sexually abused his son, D.W., is contradicted by the record, which demonstrates that the alleged sexual abuse was committed by the fiancť of D.W.ís mother.† In October 1991, Williamsís ex-wife requested an order for protection against Williams on behalf of her five-year-old son, D.W.[1] who had reported that his father ďtouches him down below.Ē †Williams denied the abuse but admitted that he tickled D.W. and pinched his buttocks a little bit every morning.† A November 1991 report of suspected child abuse indicated that D.W. had accused his father of giving him a ďbad touch.Ē† D.W. described spanking on his buttocks and pointed to his genitals.† Criminal charges were not filed as a result of the reported abuse because of insufficient evidence that it had occurred. †At the civil-commitment hearing, D.W. testified that his father touched him in his genital area and told D.W. that it was just tickling.† D.W. testified that, although his motherís fiancť physically abused him, only his father sexually abused him.†

Williams has consistently denied sexually abusing his son.† Nevertheless, the district court found D.W.ís testimony and reports relating to D.W.ís allegations of sexual abuse to be more credible.

We defer to the district courtís credibility determinations because the district court is in a superior position to assess credibility.† In re Welfare of L.A.F., 554 N.W.2d 393, 396 (Minn. 1998).† Because there is sufficient evidence in the record to support the district courtís finding that Williams sexually abused D.W., Williamsís challenge fails.†

Williams also challenges the district courtís finding that he sexually abused his niece, R.B., over a ten-year period, from 1968 until 1978.† Williams contends that the sexual abuse could not have occurred over that period because he was in the army for fourteen months of that ten-year period.† Williams admits that when he was fourteen he sexually abused his niece, who was between three and four years old at the time.† But Williams maintains that he sexually abused R.B. only three times over a three- or four-month period.†

While incarcerated in December 2002, Williams wrote a letter to R.B.ís father that described the sexual abuse of R.B.† This prompted the St. Louis County Sheriffís Department to conduct an interview with R.B. who reported that the sexual abuse occurred from the time she was three until she was twelve. †The statute of limitations barred prosecuting Williams for the sexual abuse.† Accordingly, no charges were filed.†

Williams argues that, because he was serving in the Army for a fourteen-month period between 1974 and 1975, the sexual abuse could not have been as extensive as the district court found.† Again the district court determined that other evidence of Williamsís sexual abuse of R.B. was more credible than Williamsís testimony.† Because evidence in the record supports the district courtís finding regarding Williamsís abuse of R.B., this evidentiary challenge also fails.

Williams also contends that the district court did not give appropriate weight to the testimony of the examining doctors and disregarded positive aspects of Williamsís life and treatment success.† †

The district courtís findings of fact refer extensively to Williamsís trial testimony, including the life he envisions for himself if he were released, the volunteer work he would perform at a mission, his plans to avoid contact with children, and his opinion that he no longer would need sex-offender treatment.† The findings of fact also rely on evidence from earlier investigations and testimony offered at the civil-commitment hearing.† In light of the deference accorded the district courtís determination as to the weight and credibility of the evidence, our review of the record establishes that there is ample evidentiary support for the findings of fact made by the district court.† Thus, we reject Williamsís contention that the district court erred by finding that the documentary evidence and testimony of expert and lay witnesses were entitled to more weight than the testimony of Williams.

III.

Williams challenges his commitment as an SPP, arguing that the district courtís determination that he has demonstrated an utter lack of power to control his sexual impulses is erroneous.† Section 253B.02 defines an SPP as follows:

[T]he existence in any person of such conditions of emotional instability, or impulsiveness of behavior, or lack of customary standards of good judgment, or failure to appreciate the consequences of personal acts, or a combination of any of these conditions, which render the person irresponsible for personal conduct with respect to sexual matters, if the person has evidenced, by a habitual course of misconduct in sexual matters, an utter lack of power to control the personís sexual impulses and, as a result, is dangerous to other persons.†

 

Minn. Stat. ß 253B.02, subd. 18b (2004).† Williams contests only the determination that he has evidenced an utter lack of power to control his sexual impulses.† The following nonexhaustive factors are relevant to our consideration of whether Williams exhibits an utter lack of power to control his sexual impulses:

[1] the nature and frequency of the sexual assaults, [2] the degree of violence involved, [3] the relationship (or lack thereof) between the offender and the victims, [4] the offenderís attitude and mood, [5] the offenderís medical and family history, [6] the results of psychological and psychiatric testing and evaluation, and [7] such other factors that bear on the predatory sex impulse and the lack of power to control it.

 

In re Blodgett, 510 N.W.2d 910, 915 (Minn. 1994).† †Because Williams does not challenge the district courtís findings on all of the Blodgett factors, we address only those factors that are properly before us.† See Melina v. Chaplin, 327 N.W.2d 19, 20 (Minn. 1982).†

The district court found that the first Blodgett factor, the nature and frequency of Williamsís sexual assaults, supports the determination that Williams has an utter lack of power to control his sexual impulses.† The examining psychologist, Dr. Reitman, indicated that Williams has exhibited a habitual course of sexual misconduct with his daughter and his neighbors.† The record establishes that Williamsís victims include his daughter, son, niece, three neighbor girls, and the daughter of his fiancťe.† R.B. was repeatedly sexually abused over a ten-year period.† A.W., D.W., H.G., H.H., and A.E. were sexually abused within the same period in 1991.† S.L.B. was sexually abused less than one year after Williams was released from prison.

Other than Williamsís denials, there is no evidence to refute the findings by the district court regarding the nature and frequency of his sexual assaults.† Thus, the record contains ample evidence in support of this factor.†

As to the second Blodgett factor, the district court found that the degree of the violence involved supports Williamsís commitment as an SPP.† The record demonstrates that Williams committed one act of overt physical violence, albeit unconnected to any sexual assault.† In 1981, Williams pleaded guilty to second-degree assault for attacking his younger sister with a knife.† But because he sexually abused victims whose age or disability enhanced their vulnerability, Williams was not required to use overt physical violence to accomplish his sexual offenses.† Although at age twelve R.B. was his oldest victim, Williams began sexually abusing her when she was three years old.† Even when less force is used to subdue an extremely young victim, the second Blodgett factor may be satisfied.† Preston, 629 N.W.2d at 113.†† Moreover, although the absence of overt physical violence may weigh against a finding of utter lack of power to control sexual impulses, this determination is not dispositive because the remaining Blodgett factors weigh in favor of the district courtís finding that Williams exhibits an utter lack of power to control his sexual impulses.†

Williams also contests the district courtís determination that his medical and family history support a finding that he exhibits an utter lack of power to control his sexual impulses.† But there is ample evidence in the record to establish this Blodgett factor.† Although both of his parents are now deceased, Williamsís father was incarcerated for sexually abusing one of Williamsís sisters.† Williamsís mother physically abused Williams when he was younger.† Two of his siblings were adopted out of the family at an early age, and Williams has only recently reconnected with them.† Williams has been married twice.† The first marriage produced two children, victims A.W. and D.W., with whom Williams has not had significant interaction for approximately fifteen years.† Williamsís second marriage produced one child, with whom Williams has not had contact since 1994.† There is no evidence that any relative is able to provide Williams with any family structure or support system.

The results of psychological testing and evaluation, the final Blodgett factor, also support the determination that Williams has an utter lack of power to control his sexual impulses.† Both Dr. Alsdurf and Dr. Reitman recommended indeterminate commitment based on the results of extensive psychological examination of Williams.†

There is ample evidence supporting the district courtís conclusion that Williams demonstrates an utter lack of power to control his sexual impulses.† Accordingly, the district court did not err in concluding that Williams satisfies the statutory definition of a ďsexual psychopathic personality.Ē†

IV.

††††††††††† Finally, Williams maintains that his civil commitment as a sexually dangerous person is erroneous because he is not likely to engage in acts of harmful sexual conduct.† Section 253B.02 defines a sexually dangerous person as a person who ď(1) has engaged in a course of harmful sexual conduct . . . ; (2) has manifested a sexual, personality, or other mental disorder or dysfunction; and (3) as a result, is likely to engage in acts of harmful sexual conduct . . . .Ē† Minn. Stat. ß 253B.02, subd. 18c (2004).† ďHarmful sexual conductĒ is ďsexual conduct that creates a substantial likelihood of serious physical or emotional harm to another.Ē† Id., subd. 7a(a) (2004).†

††††††††††† When reviewing the determination that a person is likely to engage in acts of harmful sexual conduct, we consider whether the likelihood is high, In re Linehan, 594 N.W.2d 867, 876 (Minn. 1999), utilizing the factors established in In re Linehan, 518 N.W.2d 609 (Minn. 1994).† These factors include (1) relevant demographic characteristics; (2) a history of violent behavior; (3) base rate statistics for violent behavior; (4) sources of stress in the offenderís environment; (5) the similarity of the present or future context to those contexts in which the person has used violence in the past; and (6) the personís record with respect to treatment programs.† Linehan, 518 N.W.2d at 614.† As with the SPP determination, we review only those factors that Williams challenges on appeal.†

The first Linehan factor examines the relevant demographic characteristics.† Although Williams is 48 years old, neither Dr. Alsdurf nor Dr. Reitman opined that Williamsís age decreases his risk of recidivism.† Dr. Alsdurf also opined that Williamsís poor work history and lack of education would increase the recidivism risk. †Williams counters these opinions with a study that found that sex offenders have a reduced likelihood of reoffending after they reach age 40.† But this study is not conclusive as to Williamsís likelihood of reoffending.† Rather, it is evidence weighed by the district court in light of the entire record before it.

††††††††††† The district court found that the second Linehan factor, Williamís history of violent behavior, including recency, severity, and frequency of violent acts, supports a finding of high risk.† When he was young, Williams violently assaulted his sister.† When committing his sexual offenses, Williams did not use overt physical violence because only limited force was necessary given the age and physical capacity of his victims.† Again, Williams argues that his sexual abuse was nonviolent.† The district court did not find Williamsís characterization of the sexual abuse as nonviolent persuasive.† Any error in the weight given this factor is not dispositive, however, because the other Linehan factors support the determination that Williamsís likelihood of engaging in harmful sexual conduct is high.†

††††††††††† Regarding the fourth Linehan factor, the district court determined that sources of stress in Williamsís environment suggest that he is predisposed to cope with stress in a sexually harmful manner and is likely to reoffend.† Although Williams challenges this finding by portraying a life upon release that includes a relationship with his siblings, work in a mission, and the possibility of receiving monthly disability benefits in excess of $2,000, there is no evidence to demonstrate that these aspirations are realistic or likely to deter future sexual abuse.†

††††††††††† Williams also contends that the district court erred when it found that Williamsís record of sex-offender treatment indicates a high likelihood of reoffense.† This argument also is unavailing.† Williams reoffended after his last sex-offender treatment and has refused treatment since that time.† Dr. Alsdurf testified that nothing in Williamsís record suggests that he has gained any insight about the reasons he commits sexual abuse.† Dr. Alsdurf opined that Williams remains an untreated sex offender.† Although Williams submitted certificates of completion of three treatment programs, these programs preceded his sexual abuse of S.L.B. and his subsequent conviction for second-degree criminal sexual conduct in 1998.†

Because the district courtís conclusion that Williams is an SDP who is likely to engage in acts of harmful sexual conduct is supported by the record, the district court did not err in its determination that Williams satisfies the statutory definition of a ďsexually dangerous person.Ē

Because the record supports the indeterminate civil commitment of Williams as an SPP and an SDP, we affirm.

††††††††††† Affirmed.



[1] D.W. has cerebral palsy and slight mental retardation.† At the time of these incidents, he functioned at the level of a three-year-old.