UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Appellant v. PATRICK CAPORALE, Appellee, No. 12-6832, 2012 WL 6052021(December 6, 2012) is a decision of the UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT.
This was an appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. The government appealed the judgment of the district court directing that Patrick Caporale be freed from the custody of the Bureau of Prisons and granted supervised release. Caporale finished serving his prison sentence for child molestation in 2008, but he remained incarcerated while the government sought to have him declared a “sexually dangerous person” pursuant to the civil-commitment provisions of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, 18 U.S.C. § 4248.
A sexually dangerous person under the Walsh Act means one “who has engaged or attempted to engage in sexually violent
conduct or child molestation and who is sexually dangerous to others.” 18 U.S.C. § 4247(a)(5). A person is sexually dangerous to others insofar as he or she “suffers from a serious mental illness, abnormality, or disorder,” and, as a result, “would have serious difficulty in refraining from sexually violent conduct or child molestation if released.” § 4247(a)(6). It was not disputed that, as evidenced by his several convictions, that Caporale satisfied the first, prior-conduct element of § 4247(a)(5) by having engaged in child molestation.
Following an evidentiary hearing, the district court ruled that, as a matter of law, the government had not proved that Caporale suffered from a serious mental illness, abnormality, or disorder. The court perceived in the alternative that even if Caporale were so afflicted, his commitment was not required because the government had also failed to sufficiently show that Caporale will experience serious difficulty in refraining from sexually violent conduct or child molestation if released.
The Court of Appeals disagreed and held that Caporale did suffer from a qualifying mental impairment. Nevertheless, the Court affirmed because the government fell short of carrying its burden to demonstrate a relative likelihood that Caporale would reoffend. The lower court properly credited a doctor’s testimony that Caporale possessed “sufficient volitional control to prevent him from having serious difficulty refraining from sexually violent conduct or child molestation in the future.”