This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the Civil
Eric Matthew Flanders.
Filed April 18, 2006
Scott County District
Magnus, 219 West Nassau Street,
P.O. Box 57, St. Peter, MN 56082 (for appellant Eric Matthew
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Matthew G. Frank,
Assistant Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul,
MN 55101-2134; and
Ciliberto, Scott County Attorney, Scott County Government Center, 200 Fourth
Avenue West, Shakopee, MN 55379-1220
(for respondent Scott County)
Considered and decided by Klaphake,
Presiding Judge; Hudson, Judge; and Collins, Judge.
N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
The district court committed appellant
Eric Matthew Flanders as a sexually dangerous person under Minn. Stat. §
253B.02, subd. 18c(a) (2004). On appeal
from the initial and indeterminate commitment orders, Flanders
argues that the evidence produced at trial was insufficient to establish the
criteria for civil commitment. Because
the record supports the district court’s conclusion, we affirm.
On February 25, 2005, respondent Scott
County petitioned for civil commitment
of Flanders as a sexual psychopathic
personality (SPP) under Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 18b (2004), and as a
sexually dangerous person (SDP) under Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 18c
Flanders reports being
physically and sexually abused by his father as a child. Since childhood, Flanders
has amassed a lengthy record of aggressive and inappropriate sexual
behaviors. His first reported instance
of sexual abuse occurred at 14 years old, when Flanders
sexually assaulted a seven-year-old female on at least two occasions. He was charged in a delinquency petition with
two counts of attempted first-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of
second-degree criminal sexual conduct. Flanders was ordered to submit to a psychological exam to
determine his competency to proceed in the delinquency action. The psychologist opined that Flanders was operating under a defect of reason and did
not know that what he was doing was wrong.
In early 1993, the delinquency charges were
dismissed. The district court determined
that Flanders’s parents were unable to meet
his needs and it was in his best interests to be placed in the custody of Scott
County Human Services. Flanders
entered a sex-offender treatment program, Beyond, as an outpatient in April
1993. While attending Beyond in 1993 and
1994, Flanders was reported to act up and be
physically and verbally abusive in group sessions. From July 1993 to January 1994, Flanders’s therapist noted that he was behaving more
appropriately and that he was doing well.
In April 1994, Flanders tried to push a
staff member down the stairs, then assaulted the staff member. He also pushed another staff member and
threatened to get his brother to attack the staff member. Flanders was
suspended from Beyond in July 1994. Two
weeks later he returned, but then resumed challenging treatment staff
members. In the Beyond review for July
14, 1994, to October 14, 1994, Flanders’s therapist noted that he remained at
high risk in the community because of his poor impulse control.
On September 4, 1995, Flanders
exposed himself to a 12-year-old female.
His therapist noted that his transition out of Beyond should be put on
hold until he could be placed in a supervised group home. Flanders
still needed structure and supervision and had difficulty identifying the
consequences of his behavior.
Flanders engaged in
individual therapy from January 1995 to July 1996. The therapist noted that he had a limited
ability to relate to others and that he was at risk of using aggressive
behaviors to get his needs met. In his
discharge summary from the Beyond program, the therapist indicated that Flanders remained at risk to reoffend and diagnosed him
with mild mental retardation and oppositional defiant disorder.
In July 1997, Flanders twice
exposed himself to a female bus driver.
In 1997, he moved into a group home for developmentally disabled persons
in Shakopee and in August 1997, he was accepted into the Onward sex offender
program. In December, Flanders
mentioned in a therapy session that he was more likely to expose himself when
he was stressed. On March 18, 1998, he was
dismissed from the Onward program for poor participation and attendance.
On August 18, 1999, while residing at a group home, Flanders was sexually assaulted by an adult male who was
a guest at the home. In November 1999, Flanders moved to another residential group home, the Elm
Home, in Waseca. Initially, he did well
and adjusted. Flanders
received vocational help through Jobs Plus and was employed as a dishwasher in
a restaurant, but he soon lost the job.
In December 2000, he started exposing himself to staff. There were other incidents when he became
sexually aroused while in the presence of female staff. On one occasion he phoned a female staffer
and asked her if he could touch her anywhere.
Another time, in March 2001, he sat on a female staffer and refused to let
her up. Flanders
also exposed his genitals to staff, peers, and his job coach.
In April 2001, Flanders
entered the room of a developmentally disabled female resident of the Elm Home
and forced her to have intercourse. He sexually
assaulted her twice again, on May 6 and May 17, 2001. Flanders was
charged with first- and second-degree criminal sexual conduct.
Flanders was transferred to the Minnesota Security
Hospital on May 30, 2001,
for evaluation and determination of whether or not he was competent to proceed
in the criminal matter. While there, he
failed to cooperate with the assessment team.
Flanders lay naked on his bed on two occasions when staff checked on him
during rounds and in another instance he stood outside his room naked, clutching
On July 19, 2001, Flanders
participated in a neuropsychological evaluation. During the testing, Flanders
began to masturbate. The
neuropsychologist determined that Flanders did
not meet the diagnostic criteria for mental retardation, but did have a
learning disability in mathematics and difficulty processing information. Flanders achieved
a verbal IQ score of 68, a performance IQ score of 89, and a full scale IQ of
76. He ranked in the category of mildly
to moderately impaired as to cognitive abilities and adaptive functioning. Flanders was
diagnosed with mathematics disorder, mixed receptive expressive language
disorder, and borderline intellectual functioning. The neuropsychologist concluded that Flanders was amenable to treatment, provided that the
format was appropriate and matched his intellectual functioning.
Flanders pleaded guilty
to one count of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct and received a 21-month
stayed sentence. He was referred to Safety Center
for sex-offender treatment in 2001. Flanders continued to have problems in relation to female
therapists and would stare at them inappropriately. He admitted to problems with respect to pornography
and said that he would try to make himself better by playing video games and
watching television. Supported by
another psychological evaluation at Safety
was found to be an appropriate candidate for the program and started treatment
on January 7, 2002. Flanders
reported that female staff aroused him and his main problem with treatment involved
staring intently at female staff. During
this period, Flanders masturbated in front of
a window and exposed himself to female staff at REM-Lyndale.
In May 2002, Flanders
exposed himself at his dentist’s office and spent five days in jail. He was uncooperative and found to be engaging
in sexually inappropriate talk with two residents in July 2002. By September 2002, Flanders
was thought to be making progress and was moved to the REM-Creekside home in
November 2002. On October 4, 2002, Flanders was charged with two earlier misdemeanor
indecent conduct offenses.
By the spring and summer of 2003, Flanders’s
behavior continued to be problematic, and he failed to demonstrate motivation. He was suspended from the Safety Center
program on July 24, 2003, after he attacked a staff member with a butter
knife. The staff concluded that Flanders needed treatment in a more restrictive
setting. Upon discharge, a psychologist
noted that Flanders would benefit from
experiencing the natural consequences of his actions.
In August 2003, Flanders
was referred back to the Onward program and was admitted on September 23,
2003. He was expelled from Onward on
July 9, 2004, because he failed to follow the rules of his contract and for
lack of motivation to participate in treatment.
Flanders persistently engaged in
defiant behavior and in the manipulation of others.
In May 2004, Flanders had
been placed on house restriction at REM-Creekside because of physically
aggressive incidents and exposure. He
was removed from Creekside in July 2004 for failure to comply with his
contract. In his discharge summary, the
therapist noted that Flanders is at extremely
high risk for reoffense if not supervised.
In October 2004, Flanders
violated probation for failure to complete his sex- offender treatment program
and was ordered by the district court to complete a psychological exam. Flanders’s
reoffense risk was assessed as “moderately high.” In November 2004, Flanders was committed to
the Minnesota Correctional Facility at St.
The district court relied on Flanders’s history of
aberrant sexual behaviors and the reports of two court-appointed experts in
finding clear and convincing evidence that Flanders satisfied the criteria for
commitment as an SDP under Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 18c, but that Flanders did not meet the statutory criteria for
commitment as an SPP. An interim order
for commitment was issued on July 27, 2005, as amended by an order filed on August
17, 2005. The district court ordered the
Minnesota Sex Offender Program to file a treatment report with the court within
60 days, as required by Minn. Stat. § 253B.18, subd. 2 (2004). On October 25, 2005, the district court
ordered that Flanders be indeterminately committed
to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program as an SDP. This appeal followed.
D E C I S I O N
An appellate court’s review of a
judicial commitment is limited to determining whether the district court
complied with the Civil Commitment Act and whether the commitment is justified
by findings based upon evidence submitted at the hearing. In re
Schaefer, 498 N.W.2d 298, 300 (Minn.
App. 1993). To commit a person as an
SDP, the petitioner must prove the requirements for commitment by clear and
convincing evidence. Minn. Stat. §§
253B.18, subd. 1(a), .185, subd. 1 (2004).
Whether the evidence is sufficient
to demonstrate that the standards for commitment as an SDP are met is a
question of law reviewed de novo. See In
re Linehan, 518 N.W.2d 609, 613 (Minn.
1994) (setting standard of review for psychopathic personality) (Linehan I). This court does not weigh the evidence on
appeal, but rather it determines whether the evidence as a whole presents
substantial support for the district court’s conclusions. In re
Linehan, 557 N.W.2d 171, 189 (Minn. 1996)
(Linehan III), vacated on other grounds and remanded for reconsideration, 522 U.S. 1011, 118 S. Ct. 596 (1997), aff’d as modified, 594 N.W.2d 867 (Minn. 1999). On review,
findings of fact shall not be set aside unless they are clearly erroneous. In re
Monson, 478 N.W.2d 785, 788 (Minn.
To commit a person under the SDP
statute, the petitioner must prove that the person
(1) has engaged in
a course of harmful sexual conduct as defined in subdivision 7a;
(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 as defined in subdivision
Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 18c(a) (2004). Subdivision
7a defines harmful sexual conduct to include “sexual conduct that creates a
substantial likelihood of serious physical or emotional harm to another” and
imposes a rebuttable presumption that acts constituting criminal sexual conduct
in the first through fourth degree create a substantial likelihood that the
victim will suffer serious physical or emotional harm. Minn. Stat.
§ 253B.02, subd. 7a(a), (b) (2004). Appellant
does not dispute the district court’s findings on the first two elements. He argues that the evidence is insufficient
to sustain the finding on the third element.
Flanders contends that the evidence
only demonstrated that he was highly likely to reoffend in a nonviolent manner
by exposing himself, causing minimal harm, and not by acts of harmful sexual
The SDP law states, “For purposes of
this provision, it is not necessary to prove that the person has an inability
to control the person’s sexual impulses.”
§ 253B.02, subd. 18c(b) (2004). The
statutory definition has been interpreted to require that the present disorder
“does not allow [offenders] to adequately control their sexual impulses, making
it highly likely that they will engage in harmful sexual acts in the future.” In re
Linehan, 594 N.W.2d 867, 876 (Minn.
1999) (Linehan IV). Although an “utter lack of control” is not
required, there must be a finding that the person suffers from a mental
abnormality or personality disorder that “makes it difficult, if not impossible,
for the person to control his dangerous behavior.” Id. at 875
court-appointed experts, Dr. Roger Sweet and Dr. Linda Marshall, both testified
that the type of sexual conduct engaged in by Flanders
is harmful because it creates a substantial likelihood of emotional and
physical harm to his victims. The
reports and testimony of Drs. Sweet and Marshall indicate that Flanders’s exposure is a precursor to other offending
noted in her report that Flanders manifested a
sexual personality or other mental disorder or dysfunction. In addition to an underlying antisocial
personality disorder, Flanders has a disorder
of deviated sexual arousal. Dr. Marshall
also noted that Flanders manifested an
inability to adequately control his sexual behavior and, as a result, he is
highly likely to engage in acts of harmful sexual conduct. Flanders was
assessed with at least two actuarial tools and rating scales. On the STATIC 99, he was deemed a high risk
of reoffending; and on the MnSOST-R, he was deemed a moderate to high risk of
reoffending. Dr. Marshall also noted
[i]n studies of sex offender[s] two
variables have been shown to highly correlate with increased risk of
recidivation. One of these is deviant
sexual arousal and failure to complete treatment. Mr. Flanders does have a deviant sexual
arousal pattern, is diagnosed with Paraphilia, NOS. He completed sex offender treatment as a
juvenile and later was found unamenable to treatment at two other facilities.
doctors also based their opinions on a consideration of the Linehan factors. These factors include (1) relevant
demographic characteristics; (2) history of violent behavior; (3) base-rate
statistics for violent behavior; (4) sources of stress in the offender’s
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
person’s record with respect to sex-therapy programs. Linehan
I, 518 N.W.2d at 614; see Linehan III,
557 N.W.2d at 189 (holding that the six Linehan
I factors for predicting danger in an SPP commitment may also be used to
determine the likelihood of future harm in an SDP commitment).
court-appointed experts agreed that Flanders
has numerous demographic factors that are associated with increased risk. Flanders is
a young, single, male without a strong support system. The experts also agreed that as a result of Flanders’s limited intellectual abilities and sexual and
mental disorders, he has serious difficulty controlling his sexually harmful
behaviors and is more dangerous.
History of Violent Behavior
Flanders has committed numerous physically aggressive acts
in his past. Reports depict a history of
verbal aggression and property destruction.
At the Beyond sex- offender day treatment program from 1993 to 1996, Flanders was verbally and physically aggressive, he was
disrespectful, oppositional, and belligerent toward staff. Flanders was suspended from the Safety Center
after he attacked a staff member with a butter knife in July 2003. In April 1994, Flanders
threatened to have his brother beat up a staffer and tried to push someone down
noted that Flanders has two sex-offense
convictions from six different incidents over a nine-year period and numerous uncharged
exposure incidents. Dr. Sweet noted that
Flanders’s exposure incidents are a part of
his sexual-offending cycle; they are a prelude to his sexual offending. Both agreed that his history of violent
behavior portends a high likelihood of recidivism.
experts agreed that the actuarial risk percentages indicate that Flanders poses a heightened risk of sexually
reoffending. Additionally, Flanders’s discharge summaries from the Onward program
and the Beyond program indicated that he was at a high risk of reoffending.
Sources of Stress
Flanders has a history of acting out sexually brought on
by anger and stress. Flanders
consistently acted out in group homes. Flanders self-reported to a psychologist that he was more
likely to expose himself when he was stressed.
Significantly, Dr. Sweet cited the connection between Flanders’s
limited intellectual abilities and his tendency to become stressed and act
Similarity of Situation
to the Past
noted that if Flanders were not committed, he
would have to deal with many of the same stressors that affected past behavior. Flanders has
not acquired the coping tools necessary to succeed in controlling himself in
such situations. Because of his limited
intellectual abilities, any prevention plans that he has are not likely to help
him because he does not comprehend how he is to accomplish these plans.
Record with Sex-Therapy
Flanders has been availed of numerous treatment programs
and has nominally completed only one. Soon
after completing the Beyond program, Flanders reoffended
multiple times. Hampered by limited intellectual
capacity, Flanders fails to understand the
cycle of offending, and he lacks the ability to empathize, both of which Dr. Sweet
opined are necessary for effective treatment.
Flanders has not achieved adequate
control of his sexual impulses.
all of the Linehan factors, Dr. Marshall
concluded that Flanders is “highly likely to
engage in acts of harmful sexual conduct.” Dr. Sweet also concluded that Flanders is highly likely to engage in a hands-on sexual
offense. Dr. Sweet noted that the
exposure incidents are a part of the hands-on offense cycle. We find clear and convincing evidence in the
record supporting the district court’s conclusion that it is highly likely that
Flanders will engage in future harmful sexual conduct.
Finally, Flanders contends that the actuarial tools employed by
the experts and relied on by the district court are invalid. He points out that indecent exposure is not
listed under Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd 7a(b), as one of the types of conduct creating
a rebuttable presumption of a substantial likelihood that a victim will suffer
serious physical or emotional harm thereby; thus, he argues, the prediction of
future harm is invalid in his case. Flanders provides no authority for this argument, and
there is no support in the record. More
importantly, his focus on the actuarial tools fails to recognize that the
statistical information is only one of the factors relevant to predicting
likelihood of reoffense. See Linehan III, 557 N.W.2d at 189
(noting that the appellant in that case had offered “no statutory or
precedential support for the argument that actuarial methods or base rates are
the sole permissible basis for prediction.”).
And there is no
requirement that a victim suffer actual emotional or physical harm. In re
Civil Commitment of Martin, 661 N.W.2d 632, 639 (Minn. App. 2003), review denied (Minn. Aug. 5, 2003). Nor is there a requirement that the offender
be convicted for the conduct. In re Civil Commitment of Ramey, 648
N.W.2d 260, 268 (Minn. App. 2002), review
Sept. 17, 2002).
of Flanders’s past course of harmful sexual conduct, his mental disorders, and
his profound lack of power to control his sexual impulses, the district court
determined on clear and convincing evidence that Flanders meets the statutory criteria
for a sexually dangerous person under Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 18c. Review of the
record reveals that the evidence as a whole substantially supports the district
court’s conclusion on the likelihood of Flanders
to engage in acts of harmful sexual conduct.