In the Matter
of the Civil Commitment of:
Paul John Knutson
Filed November 29, 2005
Bradley A. Kluver,
236 North Sibley Avenue,
55355 (for appellant)
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Matthew Frank, Assistant
Attorney General, 1800
445 Minnesota Street,
55101-2134 (for respondent)
decided by Minge, Presiding Judge; Kalitowski, Judge; and Crippen, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P
I N I O N
challenges his commitment as a sexually dangerous person and a sexual
psychopathic personality on the grounds that the evidence was not sufficient
and that the commitment violated the constitutional prohibition against
double jeopardy, the constitutional right to a jury trial, and the
proof-beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard. Because the bases for commitment
are supported by the record and because the principles of double jeopardy,
the right to a jury trial, and the right to proof beyond a reasonable doubt
do not apply to civil commitments, we affirm.
Paul John Knutson is a 27-year-old male with a history of criminal sexual
conduct and other antisocial behavior. In October 1990, at the age of 12,
appellant committed his first reported sexual assault by inappropriately
touching the breasts and buttocks of a 13-year-old female despite her
protests. Appellant was charged with and admitted to fourth-degree criminal
sexual assault and was placed on indefinite probation.
15, appellant committed his second reported sexual assault. His victim was
his seven-year-old male step-cousin. Appellant invited the boy to play
Nintendo and then forced him to perform oral sex. Despite appellant’s
threats, the boy reported the assault, and appellant was convicted of
second-degree sexual assault and adjudicated delinquent.
committed three additional sexual assaults in 1997. In November, he forced
a 14-year-old female to perform oral sex. Afterwards, appellant threatened
the girl. In early December, appellant raped another 14-year-old female in
a car. Appellant threatened to kill this girl if she told anyone. Two
weeks later, appellant sexually assaulted a 12-year-old female in the
bathroom of her home. After the assault, appellant threatened to kill her
and her brother. Appellant pleaded guilty to charges of third-degree sexual
assault for the oral sex incident and fourth-degree sexual assault for the
incident with the 12 year old; he was not prosecuted for the rape.
Appellant received probation as punishment for both assaults.
stays in various treatment facilities, appellant was incarcerated in 1999
because he violated the terms of his probation by physically assaulting his
fiancée. Before appellant was released from prison, he was identified as a
level III sex offender. Appellant was then placed in a series of halfway
houses. However, he absconded from each placement. As a result, appellant
returned to prison in 2002.
appellant’s December 24, 2004, release from the Minnesota Department of
Corrections, officials in
County petitioned for appellant’s
civil commitment. The county alleged that appellant is a sexually dangerous
person (SDP) under Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 18c(a) (2004), and a sexual
psychopathic personality (SPP) under Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 18b
(2004). The district court found that appellant met the standards under
both provisions and ordered his civil commitment. Appellant challenges his
designation as an SDP and SPP and the commitment.
D E C I S I O N
challenges the sufficiency of the evidence used to classify him as an SDP
and SPP. “On appeal, findings of fact are not set aside unless clearly
erroneous, and the record is viewed in a light most favorable to the
district court’s findings.” In re Civil Commitment of Ramey, 648
N.W.2d 260, 269 (Minn. App. 2002), review denied
(Minn. Sept. 17, 2002). Thus,
this court will review the entire record and only reverse the district
court’s findings if the court is “left with a firm and definite conviction
that a mistake has been made.” Roy Matson Truck Lines, Inc. v. Michelin
Tire Corp., 277 N.W.2d 361, 361-62 (Minn.
whether the factual findings meet the requirements of the statute is a
question of law reviewed de novo. In re Civil Commitment of Martin,
661 N.W.2d 632, 638 (Minn. App. 2003), review
denied (Minn. Aug. 5,
2003). A de novo review does not include a re-weighing of the evidence, but
rather determines whether the record as a whole provides substantial support
for the district court’s conclusions. In re Linehan (Linehan III),
557 N.W.2d 171, 189 (Minn. 1996), rev’d on other
U.S. 1011, 118 S. Ct. 596 (1997),
aff’d as modified, 594 N.W.2d 867 (Minn.
issue is whether the district court erred in determining that appellant
meets the criteria for commitment as a sexually dangerous person (SDP).
Under the Minnesota Commitment and Treatment Act, Minn. Stat. §§ 253B.01-.23
(2004), an SDP is an individual who:
(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.
Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd.
bears the burden of proving each element by clear and convincing evidence.
Minn. Stat. §§ 253B.18, subd. 1(a), .185, subd. 1 (2004) (“if the court
finds by clear and convincing evidence that the proposed patient is a person
who is mentally ill and dangerous to the public, it shall commit the person
. . .”). The statute defines “harmful sexual conduct” as “sexual conduct
that creates a substantial likelihood of serious physical or emotional harm
to another.” Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 7a(a) (2004). There is a
rebuttable presumption that criminal sexual conduct in the first through
fourth degrees is harmful sexual conduct.
Id. at subd. 7a(b). In addition,
the Minnesota Supreme Court has fleshed out the final element, requiring a
finding that it is “highly likely” that the appellant will commit harmful
sexual conduct upon release. In re Linehan (Linehan IV), 594 N.W.2d
867, 876 (Minn. 1999).
Kansas v. Crane, the United States Supreme Court concluded that although
the constitution requires some finding that the individual lacks the ability
to control his or her impulses, a complete lack of control is not a
prerequisite to commitment. 534
U.S. 407, 411-12, 122 S. Ct.
867, 870 (2002); see Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 18c(b) (2004).
The Minnesota Supreme Court has interpreted the Minnesota Commitment and
Treatment Act to allow the civil commitment of an SDP “whose present
disorder or dysfunction does not allow them to adequately control their
sexual impulses.” Linehan IV, 594 N.W.2d at 876 (emphasis
added). Therefore, the court must distinguish the SDP whose mental disorder
requires civil commitment, from “the dangerous but typical recidivist
convicted in an ordinary criminal case.” Crane, 534
U.S. at 413, 122
S. Ct. at 870. As a result, only a narrow group of
individuals is eligible for commitment under the SDP act. Ramey, 648
N.W.2d at 265-66.
Course of Harmful Sexual Conduct
must show that appellant engaged in a course of harmful sexual conduct.
Minn. Stat. § 253B.01, subd. 18c(a)(1).
Each of appellant’s assaults fall within the rebuttable presumption of
harmful sexual conduct, as each offense constituted an act of first- through
fourth-degree criminal sexual assault. Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 7a(b).
In addition, both experts who testified at the civil commitment hearing
agreed that appellant committed crimes of opportunity, preying on the
vulnerability of his young victims. Dr. Riedel concurred, focusing his
critique on the presence of coercion and threats of violence in the
assaults. Dr. Riedel also highlighted the potentially unlimited victim
pool, as appellant assaulted young boys and girls, family members and mere
statements from the victims demonstrate the harm caused by appellant’s
conduct. One victim stated that she wanted to kill herself after the
assault. She attended counseling sessions at a crisis center, and now feels
that the only thing her boyfriend wants from her is sex. Another victim
stated that she was too upset and embarrassed to discuss the assault. In a
letter to her mother describing the assault, she confessed that she feels
like a slut.
experts also identified appellant as suffering from an antisocial
personality disorder and an unspecified psychopathy. Having an antisocial
personality disorder satisfies the second element of the SDP statute,
Linehan IV, 594 N.W.2d at 878, and embodies an inability to empathize
with others, as well as a general lack of concern for others. Dr. Riedel
also testified that appellant demonstrates tendencies of pedophilia. The
experts agreed that appellant’s personality disorders are exacerbated by his
untreated substance abuse.
evaluation of appellant in 1999 described him as completely lacking insight
into his sexually manipulative behavior, as well as having no remorse for
any of his victims. Appellant alternatively claims he did not assault
anyone or he blames his victims. For example, appellant accuses two victims
of “badgering him into physical and sexual contact,” and blames his friends
for another assault. These are all traits of antisocial personality
Likely to Cause Future Harm
Minnesota SDP Act requires a finding of future dangerousness, and then links
that finding to the existence of a mental abnormality or personality
disorder that makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the person to
control his dangerous behavior.”
594 N.W.2d at 875 (quotations omitted). Both experts
administered a series of tests that demonstrate appellant’s recidivist
tendencies. For example, the revised Minnesota Sex Offender Screening Tool
indicated upwards of a 70-88% chance of recidivism, while the Violence Risk
Appraisal Guide gave the appellant a 100% likelihood of recidivism within
seven to ten years. The STATIC-99 test gave appellant a 52% risk of
re-offending within 15 years. These test scores led each expert to
independently conclude that appellant is highly likely to re-offend and
poses a future danger to the public.
addition to test scores, the supreme court also outlined a list of factors
the district court may use to determine whether the SDP presents a future
danger to the public. In re Linehan (Linehan I), 518 N.W.2d 609, 614
(Minn. 1994). These factors
(a) the person’s relevant demographic characteristics . . .;
(b) the person’s history of violent behavior . . .;
(c) the base rate statistics for violent behavior among
individuals of this person’s background . . .;
(d) the sources of stress in the environment . . .;
(e) the similarity of the present or future context to those
contexts in which the person has used violence in the past;
(f) the person’s record with respect to sex therapy programs.
record supports the district court’s findings for each criterion. First,
the court considered the relevant demographic characteristics. Appellant
has a history of not being able or motivated to find employment. This is
hampered by the fact that appellant only has a tenth-grade education and is
considered an untreated level III sex offender. He also suffers from
numerous personality disorders and substance abuse.
appellant’s violent history is also relevant. In each attack, appellant
used coercion to gain compliance from his victims. He also used direct and
indirect threats of violence in an attempt to gain silence after the fact.
In addition, the age of his victims suggests an attempt to manipulate and
intimidate. While appellant contends that, because these assaults all took
place years ago, he does not pose a present danger, the district court found
that appellant’s incarceration and stays in halfway houses prevented him
from re-offending with his “chosen” victim pool, young females. See In
re Bobo, 376 N.W.2d 429, 432 (Minn. App. 1985) (holding that good
behavior in artificial environment is not determinative of dangerousness,
where experts testify patient remains mentally ill and dangerous).
the court considers base-rate statistics. Expert testing indicated that
appellant has an extremely high risk for recidivism until age 50, when such
risk typically abates. Therefore, this factor also supports civil
commitment in this case.
the sources of stress in appellant’s environment are relevant. Appellant’s
status as a level III sex offender interferes with his housing prospects.
While staying at halfway houses and looking for permanent housing, appellant
responded to this stress by absconding and using marijuana and alcohol.
Moreover, appellant does not respond well to authority, frequently refusing
to follow the rules of halfway houses and treatment centers, and failing to
register as a sex offender. Appellant also lacks a relapse-prevention plan
that would allow him to deal with environmental triggers.
appellant’s current situation is substantially similar to those past
contexts which led appellant to offend. Not only does appellant still have
alcohol and drug problems, he refused sex offender treatment while in
Linehan I factor counsels the court to consider appellant’s response
to therapy programs. As the district court found, appellant has an
extensive treatment history. Appellant was treated for the first time
nearly 14 years ago. In denial about his sexual conduct, appellant took to
minimizing his role; a pattern which continued up to his final string of
assaults. Appellant was also diagnosed with “some emerging antisocial
traits” after the first assault. This early diagnosis has developed into
full antisocial personality disorder. To deal with these issues, appellant
has been treated at the
Center’s Sex Specific Program, the
Hospital. Appellant, however,
has failed to complete treatment and remains an untreated sex offender.
district court specifically concluded that not only does the appellant have
a long treatment history, he also quickly resorts to criminal behavior when
unsupervised. Given these factors, the district court reasonably concluded
that appellant should be committed as an SDP, a conclusion this court
second issue is whether the district court erred in determining that
appellant meets the criteria for commitment as a sexual psychopathic
personality (SPP). Under the Minnesota Commitment and Treatment Act, Minn.
Stat. §§ 253B.01-.23 (2004), an SPP means:
[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 person’s sexual impulses and, as a result, is dangerous to other
Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd.
18b (emphasis added).
The “utter lack
of control” element presents the key difference between the SPP and SDP
statutes. As a result, “[t]he psychopathic personality statute identifies a
volitional dysfunction which grossly impairs judgment and behavior with
respect to the sex drive.” In re Blodgett, 510 N.W.2d 910, 915 (Minn.
Statutory Behavior Conditions
civilly committed as an SPP, the appellant must demonstrate certain
behavioral characteristics in conjunction with a habitual course of sexual
misconduct. Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 18b. First, the district court
found that appellant is emotionally unstable. Not only does appellant have
substance-abuse problems, he has also been diagnosed with personality
disorders which demonstrate emotional instability. Second, the district
court found that impulsiveness defines appellant’s life. A symptom of
anti-social personality, impulsiveness triggers appellant’s criminal conduct
and is further aggravated by his substance abuse.
district court found that appellant lacks customary standards of good
judgment. Appellant pleaded guilty to four sexual assaults, continually
violated his probation, and absconded from halfway houses to abuse drugs.
Appellant’s choices repeatedly put him in contact with the criminal justice
system, yet he does nothing to reform his behavior. Finally, appellant has
failed to appreciate the consequences of his actions. Not only has
appellant persistently minimized the impact of the assaults on his victims,
he also blames them for his criminal conduct.
Habitual Course of Misconduct in Sexual Matters
committed a string of five sexual assaults from the age of twelve to the age
of nineteen, with three of the offenses taking place within an approximately
one-month time span. The victim impact statements demonstrate the harmful
results of the misconduct, and appellant’s own testimony shows impulsiveness
and lack of empathy for his victims. Thus, by considering the opinions of
experts who examined the appellant, as well as the impact of the crimes, the
district court concluded that appellant followed a habitual course of
misconduct in sexual matters.
Lack of Power to Control Sexual Impulses
the key element to an SPP determination. A number of factors are
dispositive in determining whether an individual should be committed because
of an utter lack of control over 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
(4) the offender’s attitude and mood;
(5) the offender’s medical and family history;
(6) the results of psychological and psychiatric testing and
(6) such other factors that bear on the predatory sex impulse
and the lack of power to control it.
Blodgett, 510 N.W.2d
district court correctly applied the Blodgett factors to determine
that appellant is an SPP. Dr. Riedel found that appellant was opportunistic
in the commission of his crimes, preying on the vulnerability of his young
victims. While the nature and frequency of the assaults varied, each victim
was underage, and three of the assaults happened during one month.
Moreover, coercion and threats of violence prevailed in each assault.
Appellant used force to effectuate the attacks, and often threatened the
victims with bodily harm if they reported the assault. Likewise, the
appellant knew each of his victims with varying degrees of familiarity.
district court also considered the appellant’s attitude and mood, as well as
his medical and family history. As a result of his antisocial personality
disorder, appellant continually minimizes his role in the attacks.
Moreover, appellant’s family situation does not provide stability or
support. Both of appellant’s parents are alcoholics with difficulty holding
jobs. Appellant’s father would supply him with drugs and alcohol,
contributing to appellant’s delinquency and substance abuse. Appellant also
indicated that he was physically abused by his maternal uncle, and was
exposed to pornography at a young age.
the results of extensive testing demonstrate that appellant is at a high
risk for recidivism. Not only does appellant have a low average I.Q., which
may further complicate treatment of his various disorders, but he also is
considered an untreated sex offender who does not have an effective
relapse-prevention program in place. Notably, appellant has refused
treatment even when it would have resulted in his early release. The
district court reasonably concluded that these factors, as well as
appellant’s impulsive nature, rendered him utterly unable to control his
sexual impulses and, therefore, clear and convincing evidence demonstrated
that appellant poses a danger to others.
pretrial motion appellant argued that civil commitment violates the Double
Jeopardy Clause of the federal constitution. The district court denied the
motion. This court will review a constitutional challenge de novo.
State v. Johnson, 689 N.W.2d 247, 253 (Minn. App.
2004), review denied (Minn.
Jan. 20, 2005).
individual otherwise meets the requirements for involuntary civil
commitment, the State is under no obligation to release that individual
simply because the detention would follow a period of incarceration.”
v. Hendricks, 521
U.S. 346, 370, 117
S. Ct. 2072 (1997). Moreover, the Minnesota
Supreme Court has held numerous times that civil commitment is a remedial,
not punitive, course of action. Blodgett, 510 N.W.2d at 916.
Therefore, it does not violate the constitutional protection against double
jeopardy. See also Call v. Gomez, 535 N.W.2d 312, 320 (Minn. 1995)
(finding that the purpose of commitment statute is treatment, not preventive
detention); State ex. rel. Pearson v. Probate Court of Ramsey County,
205 Minn. 545, 550, 287 N.W. 297, 300 (1939) (noting that a
civilly-committed individual receives treatment upon commitment and,
therefore, the statute is not punitive but rather remedial).
United States Supreme Court has similarly concluded that the states have an
interest in civilly committing those who present a danger to others.
U.S. at 366, 117
S. Ct. at 2084. See also Addington v. Texas,
U.S. 418, 426, 99 S.
Ct. 1804, 1809 (1979) (recognizing the state’s legitimate interest in caring
for those unable to care for themselves and protecting community from the
dangerous behavior of mentally ill persons). These authorities dispose of
appellant’s double-jeopardy claim.
issue is whether proceeding without a jury, and not determining facts beyond
a reasonable doubt, violated appellant’s rights. Appellant argued, in a
pretrial motion, that the district court should dismiss the commitment
petition because proceeding without a jury would violate appellant’s
constitutional rights even though the statute does not require hearing by
jury. The district court denied the motion. “A statute bears the
presumption of validity, and the ‘party challenging the constitutionality of
the statute has the onus of establishing beyond a reasonable doubt that the
statute violates a claimed right.’” In re Conservatorship of Foster,
547 N.W.2d 81, 85 (Minn. 1996) (quoting In re
Schmidt, 443 N.W.2d 824, 826 (Minn.
commitment statute itself contemplates that the court, and not a jury, will
make the commitment determination. The statute expressly provides that,
“[u]pon the filing of a petition alleging that a proposed patient is a
sexually dangerous person or is a person with a sexual psychopathic
personality, the court shall hear the petition as provided in section
Minn. Stat. § 253B.185, subd. 1 (2004)
(emphasis added). It goes on to state that, “the court shall commit
the patient to a secure treatment facility[.]”
Id. (emphasis added). The
legislature could have provided a jury-trial right, yet it did not.
Minnesota courts have long recognized
that the state constitution does not guarantee a right to a jury trial in a
civil commitment proceeding. Pearson, 205
Minn. at 556-57, 287 N.W. at 303. See
also Joelson v. O’Keefe, 594 N.W.2d 905, 910 (Minn. App. 1999)
(re-affirming the Pearson principle that the right to a jury trial
does not attach to a civil commitment hearing), review denied (Minn.
July 28, 1999); see also
Poole v. Goodno, 335 F.3d 705, 709 (8th Cir.
2003). Therefore, both the case law and the statutory language dispose of
appellant’s claim of a right to a jury trial.
appellant states no authority for his proposition that commitment as an SDP/SPP
should be supported by evidence proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The
Minnesota Supreme Court has stated that where clear and convincing evidence
is present, “no further evidence to support [commitment] is necessary.”
In re Joelson, 344 N.W.2d 613, 614 (Minn.
1984). While both criminal proceedings and commitment proceedings may
result in the individual’s loss of liberty, the United State Supreme Court
has concluded that mental illness may be demonstrated by clear and
convincing evidence, not proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Addington,
U.S. at 432-33, 99
S. Ct. at 1812-13.
Involuntary civil confinement of dangerous persons is not contrary to our
understanding of ordered liberty. Hendricks, 521
U.S. at 357, 117
S. Ct. at 2080. The Supreme Court held that
commitment proceedings are not punitive, and that the proof beyond a
reasonable doubt standard was closely connected to the development of
criminal law, but not mental health law. Addington, 441
U.S. at 428, 99
S. Ct. at 1810. The Supreme Court further reasoned
that, while minimizing the risk of error in criminal cases superseded the
concern that a guilty person may go free, the same could not be said for a
remedial civil commitment proceeding.
Id. at 429, 99
S. Ct. at 1811. Given this strong history of denying
such a right, appellant’s claim fails.