This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of
John Michael Gleason.
Filed May 5, 1998
Freeborn County District Court
File No. P9-97-634
Chester D. Swenson, 206 South Washington, P.O. Box 426, Albert Lea, MN 56007
Hubert H. Humphrey, III, Attorney General, Narda Jones, Assistant Attorney
General, John L. Kirwin, Assistant Attorney General, 900 NCL Tower, 445
Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2128 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Schumacher, Presiding Judge, Huspeni, Judge,
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O
Appellant John Michael Gleason challenges his indeterminate commitment as a
sexual psychopathic personality (SPP) and a sexually dangerous person (SDP).
He argues that respondent failed to prove he met the standards for commitment
and contends the laws under which he was committed are unconstitutional. We
In 1990, appellant sexually abused his younger sister by fondling her
and engaging in oral, anal and vaginal sex. He was charged with first degree
criminal sexual conduct and found delinquent. The court ordered out-of-home
placement and sex offender treatment.
In 1992, appellant sexually molested his sister again while on home visits
from a foster placement. He also engaged in inappropriate sexual behaviors in
the community. He was then ordered to attend the Minnesota Correctional
Facility at Sauk Centre, where he made poor progress in the sex offender
treatment program. He also kept a journal where he recorded his violent sexual
fantasies involving female staff members and on one occasion planned the rape
of one of them. On June 19, 1997, Freeborn County petitioned for appellant's
commitment as an SPP and SDP.
At the hearing, experts generally agreed that appellant met all of the
standards for commitment as an SPP and SDP. After committing appellant for an
initial term, a review hearing was held. The court then committed appellant to
the Minnesota Sex Offender Program for an indeterminate period as an SPP and
SDP. Appellant now seeks review of his SPP and SDP commitments.
D E C I S I O N
The district court's factual findings will be affirmed unless clearly
erroneous. Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01; In re Joelson, 385 N.W.2d 810,
811 (Minn. 1986). Whether facts found by the district court satisfy commitment
requirements is a question of law that appellate courts will review de novo.
In re Linehan, 518 N.W.2d. 609, 613 (Minn. 1994). On issues of
law, the appellate court will not defer to the district court. In re
Stilinovich, 479 N.W.2d. 731, 734 (Minn. App. 1992).
Respondent must prove by clear and convincing evidence that appellant meets
the standards for SPP and SDP commitment. Minn. Stat. § 253B.18, subd. 1
(1996); see Minn. Stat. § 253B.185, subd. 1 (1996)
(provisions of section 253B.18 apply to SPP and SDP commitments). The statute
sets forth the relevant SPP and SDP definitions. Minn. Stat. § 253B.02,
subd. 18a (1996) (sexual psychopathic personality); Minn. Stat. § 253.02,
subd. 18b (1996) (sexually dangerous person).
Arguing that his actual sexual misconduct involved only one victim,
and that it was remote in time, appellant contends that respondent failed to
meet its burden of proof of showing a habitual course of sexual misconduct as
required for SPP commitment. Minn. Stat. § 253B.12, subd. 18a. The
record is clear; appellant admits to multiple sexual assaults on his sister.
The evidence also shows that during his residency in a children's home, he
engaged in anal and oral sex with young male residents and he grabbed a female
staff member's breast. While living in a foster home, he masturbated in front
of children in a public park. During a stay at a residential treatment
facility, appellant kept a journal of violent sexual fantasies involving
specific staff members. He actually prepared to carry out a violent rape
fantasy but his plan was detected and thwarted.
Appellant's sexual misconduct involved more than one person. The law,
however, does not require multiple victims in order to meet the "habitual
course" standard. See Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 18a
(1996) (SPP lacks reference to number of victims required). Moreover, gaps in
time between the sexual misconduct and the commitment proceeding do not
preclude a determination that the conduct is habitual. See
Linehan, 518 N.W.2d at 613 (habitual course of misconduct factor met
even though last sexual offense occurred in 1975 and psychopathic personality
petition filed in 1992).
Appellant compares his history of sexual assaults to the sexual misconduct of
other individuals committed as sexual psychopaths and argues that his conduct
was much less harmful and did not result in the type of harm the statute
intended to address. We disagree. Appellant engaged in repeated, forceful,
sexual assaults against his vulnerable, younger sister. The expert witnesses
concluded, and the district court found, that the assaults caused appellant's
sister severe emotional trauma. See In re Rickmyer, 519 N.W.2d
188, 190 (Minn. 1994) (must determine whether nature of conduct is of such
egregious nature "that there is a substantial likelihood of serious physical or
mental harm being inflicted on the victims.")
We hold that the district court did not err in finding that appellant had
engaged in a habitual course of sexual misconduct within the purview of Minn.
Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 18a.
The next issue is whether the district court has clear and convincing
evidence from which to conclude that appellant had an utter lack of power to
control his sexual impulses, rendering him dangerous to other persons, as
required for commitment as a sexual psychopathic personality. Minn. Stat.
§ 253B.02, subd. 18a; see In re Blodgett, 510 N.W.2d 910,
915 (Minn.), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 910 (1994). Appellant argues
that his acts lack the violence described in Blodgett to meet the
requirement and claims to have shown the insight and remorse as suggested by
In re Irwin, 529 N.W.2d 366, 375 (Minn. App. 1995) (discussing
need for a person committed as SPP to recognize his disorder to begin to rebut
finding of utter lack of control), review denied Minn. May 16,
1995). The district court believed the opinions of the experts who testified
that appellant could not control his sexual impulses. Based on its assessment
of the evidence, it concluded that appellant has an utter inability to control
his sexual impulses. We defer to the district court in credibility
determinations. See Joelson, 385 N.W.2d at 811 ("Where the
findings of fact rest almost entirely on expert opinion testimony, the probate
judge's evaluation of credibility is of particular significance.") The clear
and convincing evidence supports the district court's conclusion.
Appellant also argues that respondent failed to prove by clear and
convincing evidence that he engaged in the kind of harmful sexual conduct
required under the sexually dangerous persons law. Minn. Stat. § 253B.02.
subd. 18b; Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 7a(a) (defining harmful sexual
conduct as "sexual conduct that creates a substantial likelihood of serious
physical or emotional harm to another"). This standard is very similar to the
definition of the physical or emotional harm required for an SPP commitment.
Rickmyer, 519 N.W.2d at 190. For the same reasons that we held
the standard of harm requirement for the SPP commitment was met, we also hold
that the similar standard for the SDP commitment was met.
Next, appellant challenges the district court's determination that
there is a high likelihood he will engage in such harmful conduct in the future
under the SDP law. Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 18b(a)(3); In re
Linehan, 557 N.W.2d 171, 179-180, (Minn. 1996), vacated and
remanded, 118 S. Ct. 596 (Dec. 8, 1997). Appellant contends that other
facts do not support the district court's determinations. The district court
made extensive findings of fact and considered expert testimony that addressed
the relevant factors. We decline to reverse the district court's assessment of
the credibility of expert and other testimony. Because those credibility
determinations support the conclusion that appellant is highly likely to be
dangerous in the future, we affirm.
Appellant also raises constitutional challenges, contending that both
the sexually dangerous person act and the sexual psychopathic personality act
deprive him of his right to due process, violate constitutional prohibitions
against double jeopardy, and violate his right to equal protection.
First, as appellant acknowledged, he did not raise these arguments in the
district court. See In re Welfare of C.L.L., 310 N.W.2d 555, 557
(Minn. 1981) (appellant may not raise constitutional issues for the first time
on appeal). In any event, the Minnesota Supreme Court has upheld the
constitutionality of the SPP law and the U.S. Supreme Court has denied review.
Blodgett, 510 N.W.2d at 911. As to the SDP law, the Minnesota
Supreme Court also upheld its constitutionality in Linehan, 557
N.W.2d at 191, but the United States Supreme Court recently vacated and
remanded the decision to our supreme court. 118 S. Ct. at 596. Pending a
decision by our supreme court, we continue to reject the argument that the SDP
statute is unconstitutional.