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Wamstad v. Corman

Supreme Court of North Dakota

April 29, 2014

In the Interest of Ryan Ray Corman Haley L. Wamstad, Assistant State's Attorney, Petitioner and Appellee
v.
Ryan Ray Corman, Respondent and Appellant

Page 336

Appeal from the District Court of Grand Forks County, Northeast Central Judicial District, the Honorable Lawrence E. Jahnke, Judge.

Andrew C. Eyre, Assistant State's Attorney, Grand Forks County States Attorney's Office, Grand Forks, ND, for petitioner and appellee.

DeWayne A. Johnston, Grand Forks, ND, for respondent and appellant.

Daniel J. Crothers, William A. Neumann, S.J., Lisa Fair McEvers, Gerald W. VandeWalle, C.J. Opinion of the Court by Crothers, Justice. The Honorable William A. Neumann, S.J., sitting in place of Sandstrom, J., disqualified. Kapsner, Justice, dissenting.

OPINION

Page 337

Crothers, Justice.

[¶1] Ray Corman appeals from a district court memorandum decision and order concluding Corman is a sexually dangerous individual and committing him to the care, custody and control of the executive director of the North Dakota Department of Human Services. We affirm.

I

[¶2] In December 1986, Corman pled guilty to felony battery in Indiana and was sentenced to five years incarceration, all suspended, and three years supervised probation. One month later, Corman was charged in Indiana with sexually molesting a ten-year-old boy during October 1986, when Corman was 27 years old. Corman pled guilty on March 18, 1987 and was sentenced to five years incarceration, four years suspended, and three years supervised probation. In 1988, Corman failed to comply with the terms of his probation and was ordered to serve the remainder of his sentences for both convictions.

[¶3] In June 2007, Corman was charged with and convicted of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a Class A Misdemeanor, for providing a 15-year-old male with pornographic materials in 2006. As a condition of his sentence, Corman was required to register as a sex offender, was precluded from possessing children's pictures without permission from his probation officer and was required to complete sex offender treatment.

Page 338

[¶4] Corman was terminated from sex offender treatment in September 2009 due, in part, to his deception and failure to participate. Corman's probation was revoked in October 2009 for, among other things, possessing sexually stimulating materials. The probationary search leading up to revocation found Corman in possession of numerous photos of young children and cartoon depictions of children engaging in sexual behavior. Corman's probation officer testified the materials could be used for sexual gratification and for grooming potential young victims. In August 2010, Corman was charged with and pled guilty to failing to register as a sex offender, a Class C Felony, and for failing to register changes in his employment status. Corman was sentenced to five years imprisonment, with two years suspended, and was again required to complete sex offender treatment. While in prison, Corman again refused to participate in treatment.

[¶5] In November 2011, nine months before Corman's scheduled release date, the North Dakota Department of Corrections conducted a pre-release sex offender staffing investigation, to determine whether to recommend the civil commitment of Corman as a sexually dangerous individual. At some point, Corman admitted to multiple incidents of sexual contact with five boys who were ages 9, 11, 13, 14 and 17, which occurred when Corman was age 19-21, or six to eight years before the 1987 sexual molestation conviction. After interviewing Corman and conducting several actuarial tests, the Department of Corrections concluded further review of Corman's case was not recommended, but recommended post-release sex offender treatment. Corman's probation officer disagreed with the staffing report and contacted the Grand Forks County State's Attorney's Office to recommend civil commitment for Corman.

[¶6] An amended petition for commitment was filed by the Grand Forks County State's Attorney. Dr. Greg Volk, a clinical psychologist who was appointed by the district court as an independent psychological evaluator, clinically interviewed Corman, reviewed his records and reviewed the results of several actuarial tests. The State's psychological evaluator, Dr. Lynne Sullivan, also reviewed Corman's records and actuarial test results, but did not clinically interview Corman because Corman refused to meet with her. A commitment hearing was held on April 10 and 11, 2013. Dr. Sullivan testified Corman met the criteria for paraphelia not otherwise specified, with pedophilic and hebephelic interests and narcissistic personality disorder with antisocial traits. She determined Corman is a sexually dangerous individual and recommended he be committed to the North Dakota State Hospital. Dr. Volk testified Corman has a personality disorder, not otherwise specified, with histrionic and narcissistic features. Dr. Volk agreed Corman needed sex offender treatment but opined Corman was not necessarily likely to engage in further acts of sexually predatory conduct. Dr. Volk also noted, " Corman's history is suggestive of longstanding problems associated with a high level of risk." Dr. Volk reported, " While his current offense does not involve [sexual] contact, his history indicates a propensity toward inappropriate sexual contact with minors that he has admitted in a polygraph assessment." Following the commitment hearing, the district court found Corman is a sexually dangerous individual and committed him to the care, custody and control of the executive director of the North Dakota Department of Human Services.

II

[¶7] Corman appeals the district court order civilly committing him as

Page 339

a sexually dangerous individual. This Court reviews " 'civil commitments of sexually dangerous individuals under a modified clearly erroneous standard.'" Interest of Johnson, 2013 ND 146, ¶ 5, 835 N.W.2d 806 (quoting In re Rubey, 2011 ND 165, ¶ 5, 801 N.W.2d 702). Under this standard, this Court will affirm a district court order " 'unless it is induced by an erroneous view of the law or we are firmly convinced the order is not supported by clear and convincing evidence.'" Id. This Court has defined clear and convincing evidence as " evidence which leads to a firm belief or conviction that the allegations are true." Zander v. Workforce Safety & Ins., 2003 ND 194, ¶ 11, 672 N.W.2d 668. This Court reviews whether it was clearly erroneous for the district court to find clear and convincing evidence established the individual remained a sexually dangerous individual, rather than whether we think clear and convincing evidence supports the individual's continued commitment. See Matter of Wolff, 2011 ND 76, ¶ 14, 796 N.W.2d 644 (concluding that because a choice between two permissible views of the weight of the evidence is not clearly erroneous, the district court's finding the individual remained a sexually dangerous individual was not clearly erroneous); Matter of Vantreece, 2009 ND 152, ¶ 18, 771 N.W.2d 585 (concluding under the modified clearly erroneous standard that this Court was not convinced the district court order was not supported by clear and convincing evidence); Zundel v. Zundel, 278 N.W.2d 123, 130 (N.D. 1979) (holding this Court does not determine whether clear and convincing evidence exists because this Court will not substitute its judgment for that of the district court; rather, this Court asks whether the record contains substantial evidence capable of sustaining the district court's decision under its clear and convincing burden).

[¶8] The State has the burden of proving a person is a sexually dangerous individual by clear and convincing evidence. Interest of Johnson, 2013 ND 146, ¶ 5, 835 N.W.2d 806. A person may not be committed as a sexually dangerous individual unless the State proves:

" (1) the individual has engaged in sexually predatory conduct; (2) the individual has a congenital or acquired condition that is manifested by a sexual disorder, a personality disorder, or other mental disorder or dysfunction; (3) the condition makes the individual likely to engage in further acts of sexually predatory conduct which constitute a danger to the physical or mental health or safety of others; and (4) the individual has serious difficulty controlling his behavior."

Matter of Mangelsen, 2014 ND 31, ¶ 7, 843 N.W.2d 8 (citations omitted); see also N.D.C.C. § 25-03.3-01(8); N.D.C.C. § 25-03.3-13.

[¶9] The district court in this case held:

" Based upon the totality of the testimony and documentation produced during hearing, the court adopts the clinical finding of Dr. Lynne Sullivan, as set forth with more specificity in Petitioner Exhibit 54. Mr. Corman suffers from a clinical diagnosis of Paraphilia and a Narcissistic Personality Disorder with Antisocial Traits, both of which make him likely to engage in further acts of sexually predatory conduct, if released at this time.
" While the admissions made by the Respondent during a polygraph exam [included within the Addendum to Respondent Exhibit 60] support the allegation of a pattern of predatory sexual misconduct, the trial court did not consider those admissions as pivotal in reaching its ultimate determination in

Page 340

this case. Nor did it rely entirely upon the results of the actuarial testing results admitted during hearing. Rather, while considering such admissions and results, it was the other documented repetitious history of sexual misconduct in the form of criminal convictions, Mr. Corman's other admissions, the concurring expert opinions as to the need for sex offender treatment (although they differed as to exactly what is appropriate), the ND DOCR risk assessment included within the Addendum of the November 2010 Pre-Sentence Investigation Report, the repeated failures of Mr. Corman to adhere to probationary terms requiring no contact with minor children or possession of sexually stimulating materials, as well as his narcissistic attitudes and behaviors, and his continued denial or excuses for most of his past sexual misconduct, that has led to the court's conclusions as set forth below."

III

[¶10] It is undisputed that Corman has engaged in sexually predatory conduct, which satisfies the first element of the commitment statute. Corman was convicted of sexual molestation in 1987. That conduct meets the statutory definition of sexually predatory conduct. Corman also self-reported sexual conduct that occurred when Corman was age 19-21, or six to eight years before the sexual molestation conviction, and which involved oral sex and masturbating boys ages 9, 11, 13, 14 and 17. This conduct also meets the statutory definition of sexually predatory conduct, and although there was dispute as to its admissibility, it was relied on by the experts and by the district court.

IV

[¶11] Corman argues the district court order is not supported by clear and convincing evidence that Corman has a congenital or acquired condition that is manifested by a sexual disorder. The district court found " Mr. Corman suffers from a clinical diagnosis of Paraphilia and a Narcissistic Personality Disorder with Antisocial Traits . . . ." The district court adopted Dr. Sullivan's findings, as stated in her report. Dr. Sullivan categorizes Corman's diagnoses as " Paraphilia Not Otherwise Specified ...


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