Argued: November 1, 2018
from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of North Carolina, at Raleigh. James C. Dever III,
District Judge. (5:15-hc-02287-D)
Lee DiLauro, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Raleigh,
North Carolina, for Appellant.
Michael Gordon James, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY,
Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellee.
C. Allen, Acting Federal Public Defender, OFFICE OF THE
FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Greensboro, North Carolina, for
J. Higdon, Jr., United States Attorney, G. Norman Acker III,
Civil Chief, Assistant United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Raleigh, North Carolina, for
MOTZ, DUNCAN, and QUATTLEBAUM, Circuit Judges.
QUATTLEBAUM, CIRCUIT JUDGE
district court found Blake Charboneau to be a "sexually
dangerous person" under the Adam Walsh Child Protection
and Safety Act of 2006 (the "Act"). 18 U.S.C. §
4247(a)(5). As a result, the district court committed
Charboneau to the custody of the Attorney General. In this
appeal, Charboneau challenges the district court's
determination that he met the criteria for a sexually
dangerous person. In doing so, Charboneau raises a legal and
a factual question. The legal question is whether Charboneau
must be diagnosed with a paraphilic disorder to be committed
under the Act. The factual question is whether the record
supported the district court's findings under the clear
error standard of review. Finding that the Act does not
require a diagnosis with a paraphilic disorder and that the
district court's findings were amply supported by the
record, we affirm.
turning to the facts of this case, we summarize the pertinent
provisions of the Act. The Government commences a proceeding
under the Act by filing a certification that an inmate is a
sexually dangerous person. 18 U.S.C. § 4248(a). The
proceeding is a civil, not criminal, proceeding. See
id. § 4248. The Government then bears the burden of
proving by clear and convincing evidence that: (1) the
individual has previously "engaged or attempted to
engage in sexually violent conduct or child molestation"
(the prior conduct element), id. § 4247(a)(5);
(2) the individual currently "suffers from a serious
mental illness, abnormality, or disorder" (the serious
mental illness element), id. § 4247(a)(6); and
(3) as a result of such condition, the individual "would
have serious difficulty in refraining from sexually violent
conduct or child molestation if released" (the serious
difficulty element), id.
Government prevails, the individual is ordered into the
custody of the Attorney General. Id. § 4248(d).
The Attorney General must then make reasonable efforts to
transfer the individual to the State in which the person is
domiciled or was tried if the State will assume
responsibility for his custody, care and treatment.
Id. If the State will not assume such
responsibility, the Attorney General must place the
individual in a suitable facility until the State assumes
responsibility or the individual's condition is such that
he is no longer sexually dangerous. Id. The Act also
provides a mechanism for relief from an order of commitment.
A respondent may file a motion with the district court asking
for his discharge from commitment at any time 180 days after
his original commitment. Id. § 4247(h). In
addition, the director of the facility must prepare annual
reports concerning the respondent's mental condition and
his need for continued commitment. Id. §
4247(e)(1)(B). In sum, an order of commitment means that,
even after an individual has served his entire criminal
sentence, he remains in custody.
now to the background of this case, Charboneau lived on the
Devils Lake Sioux Reservation in Fort Totten, North
Dakota his entire life, with the exceptions of
mental health treatment, school and prison placements. Around
the time he turned twelve, Charboneau began abusing alcohol
and inhalants. He dropped out of school in the ninth grade.
Charboneau has had frequent contact with the criminal justice
system over the course of his life. Since 1978, law
enforcement officers arrested or took Charboneau into custody
over thirty times for various crimes ranging from disorderly
conduct to sexual assault. Virtually all those offenses
occurred while Charboneau was under the influence of alcohol.
Among those crimes were four arrests for sexually violent
conduct, all of which occurred while Charboneau was
1982, Charboneau sexually assaulted his twenty-three-year-old
female cousin. Charboneau claimed to be so intoxicated at the
time of the offense that he was unable to remember the
assault when he was questioned by the police the following
day. Charboneau pled guilty for this offense and was
sentenced to prison.
August 1987, Charboneau committed his second sexual offense.
Charboneau entered a woman's home, forcibly removed her
clothes and attempted to have sexual intercourse with her on
the kitchen floor. Law enforcement officials on
Charboneau's reservation who investigated the matter did
not formally charge Charboneau with sexual assault. However,
Charboneau admitted to these actions at the commitment
hearing held before the district court.
1988, Charboneau committed his third sexual offense. After a
family picnic, Charboneau, while intoxicated, took his
ten-year-old daughter to an area obscured by bushes and
sexually assaulted her. Charboneau was found guilty in
federal court of aggravated sexual abuse by force and
sentenced to 168 months in prison followed by five years of
supervised release. Charboneau began his period of supervised
release in October 2000.
on supervised release in 2003, Charboneau committed his
fourth sexual offense. Charboneau, again intoxicated,
sexually assaulted his niece. Charboneau pled guilty in state
court to sexual contact with a person incapable of
consenting. The state court sentenced him to ten years of
imprisonment. In addition, because Charboneau was on
supervised release pursuant to his previous federal sentence
at the time, the federal court found that Charboneau violated
the terms of his supervised release and sentenced him to
thirty-six months of confinement and twenty-four months of
supervised release to commence after Charboneau completed his
term of imprisonment at the state level.
December 2015, while Charboneau was in federal prison at
Federal Correctional Institution ("FCI") Butner
serving his sentence for his 2003 supervised release
violation, the Government initiated the civil commitment
proceedings by filing a certification alleging Charboneau was
a sexually dangerous person under the Act. At that time,
Charboneau's anticipated date of release was February 21,
2016. On January 27, 2017, the district court held a
commitment hearing on the Government's certification.
Because of its relevance to our review, we will summarize the
testimony at the commitment hearing.
Government called Dr. Kara Holden, a clinical psychologist
who works in the Commitment and Treatment Program at FCI
Butner. Dr. Holden testified about her treatment of
Charboneau. She remarked that Charboneau had cognitive and
communication difficulties and initially was very reserved.
She reported that Charboneau blamed the victims for his
crimes and even saw himself as a victim. She testified that
although Charboneau received treatment for alcohol abuse in
the program at FCI Butner, he denied that he had an alcohol
problem. Dr. Holden also testified that Charboneau became
more comfortable communicating with her as treatment
progressed. In December 2016, Charboneau admitted to Dr.
Holden for the first time that he had a sexual deviance
problem, needed treatment and felt that he was sexually
the Government called Dr. Christopher North, Dr. Heather Ross
and Dr. Gary Zinik as expert witnesses. Dr. North is a
clinical psychologist appointed by the district court to
conduct an evaluation of Charboneau. Dr. Ross is a sex
offender forensic psychologist at the Bureau of ...