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United States v. Schmidt

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

March 7, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Petitioner,
v.
RICHARD ARTHUR SCHMIDT, Respondent.

          ORDER

          TERRENCE W. BOYLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This cause comes before the Court following petitioner's motion to commit respondent, Richard Arthur Schmidt, as a sexually dangerous person pursuant to the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, 18 U.S.C. § 4248. For the reasons that follow, the Court finds that Mr. Schmidt is not sexually dangerous and orders his release from commitment.

         BACKGROUND

         Petitioner ("the government") instituted this civil action pursuant to Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 4248(a), seeking to commit respondent Schmidt ("respondent" or "Mr. Schmidt") as a sexually dangerous person pursuant to the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 ("the Act"). The government filed a certificate stating that mental health personnel for the Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") had examined the respondent and issued a preliminary determination that he was a sexually dangerous person within the meaning of the Act [DE 1]. This is the second such certificate filed against this respondent; a previous certification was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction following respondent's successful § 2255 motion, which was later reversed by the Fourth Circuit. United States v. Schmidt, 845 F.3d 153 (4th Cir. 2017).

         This certificate stayed the respondent's release from federal custody pending a hearing to determine whether the respondent qualifies for commitment as a sexually dangerous person. The government's petition was filed on January 11, 2017. Respondent's projected release date was January 20, 2017.

         On January 10, 2018, the Court conducted an evidentiary hearing in this matter pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4247(d). The hearing concluded after testimony from a final expert on January 24, 2018. The government filed proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law on January 9, 2017. The respondent filed proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law on February 21, 2018. Pursuant to Rule 52(a)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and after due consideration of the evidence, presented and arguments of counsel, the Court adopts in part respondent's findings of fact and conclusions of law, specifically respondent's Factual Background section. [DE 67 at 2-8]. The Court now holds that the government has failed to satisfy its burden to show by clear and convincing evidence that Respondent is sexually dangerous to others as defined by the Adam Walsh Act.

         DISCUSSION

         As a preliminary matter, this Court addresses respondent's statute of limitations argument. Respondent argues that because commitment under § 4248 is a civil action, the normal four-year civil statute of limitations applies. See 28 U.S.C. § 1658(a). Respondent began his term of incarceration on August 26, 2004. His certificate was filed on January 11, 2017, and the hearing in the action was held on January 10, 2018. Accordingly, respondent claims, the statute of limitations period began to run in 2004.

         The Fourth Circuit held recently that the civil statute of limitations does not apply in cases under the Adam Walsh Act. United States v. Searcy, 880 F.3d 116 (4th Cir. 2018). There, the Court found because those certified as sexually dangerous must be in federal custody at the time of certification, a de facto statute of limitations period already exists, and the additional catch-all period under 28 U.S.C. § 1658(a) is unnecessary. Id. at 122. The Court went on to find that these proceedings are not civil actions as envisioned by the statute. Id. at 124. Respondent's argument is entirely based on 28 U.S.C. § 1658(a). As the above case squarely addresses the question, respondent's motion is denied.

         To order the commitment of a respondent pursuant to § 4248, a court must conclude, after an evidentiary hearing at which the government bears the burden of proof by clear and convincing evidence, that the respondent is as "sexually dangerous person" as defined by the Act. The government must show that (1) the respondent has engaged in or attempted to engage in sexually violent conduct or child molestation; (2) that the respondent suffers from a serious mental illness, abnormality, or disorder; and (3) as a result of which he would have serious difficulty in refraining from sexually violent conduct or child molestation if released. 18 U.S.C. § 4248(d).). "[C]lear and convincing has been defined as evidence of such weight that it produces in the mind of the trier of fact a firm belief or conviction, without hesitancy, as to the truth of the allegations sought to be established, and, as well, as evidence that proves the facts at issue to be highly probable." Jimenez v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 269 F.3d 439, 450 (4th Cir. 2001) (internal quotation marks, citations, and alterations omitted). If the Court finds that the government has satisfied its burden, the individual must be committed to a suitable facility for mental treatment until he is determined to no longer be sexually dangerous to.others. 18 U.S.C. § 4248(d).

         1. Whether the respondent has engaged or attempted to engage in sexually violent conduct or child molestation.

         The Court finds, by clear and convincing evidence, that respondent has attempted to engage in child molestation. As the Fourth Circuit noted when reversing the district court's grant of respondent's § 2255 motion, respondent's convictions for sex offenses involving young boys are extensive and date back to 1984. United States v. Schmidt, 845 F.3d 153, 155 (4th Cir. 2017). Respondent was convicted of the federal crime that led to his current period of incarceration because he traveled to the Philippines and Cambodia and engaged in sexual contact with minor males. Respondent does not dispute this element, and all expert testimony aligned in agreement. This prong has been met.

         2. Whether the respondent currently suffers from a serious mental illness, abnormality, or disorder.

         To meet its burden on this second prong, the government must prove by clear and convincing evidence that respondent "suffers from a serious mental illness, abnormality, or disorder." 18 U.S.C. § 4248(d). Civil commitment is limited to individuals whose mental illness renders them dangerous beyond their control. United States v. Francis,686 F.3d 265, 275 (4th Cir. 2012). The determination of whether an individual's mental illness rises to ...


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