In a decision published Friday, the Kansas Supreme Court affirmed a Barton County jury’s finding that Robert J. Sigler, age 54, was a sexually violent predator subject to civil commitment under the Kansas Sexually Violent Predator Act (KSVA).
This was the State’s second attempt to civilly commit Sigler. The first attempt failed after the Barton County District Court found the State failed to meet its burden to show beyond a reasonable doubt that Sigler was likely to act out on his mental abnormality or personality disorder or that he had serious difficulty controlling his behavior. Sigler was released to parole in July 2015.
The State filed a new petition to civilly commit Sigler after Sigler’s parole was revoked. Sigler asked the district court to rule the second proceeding was procedurally barred. The district court disagreed, holding a second proceeding was allowed based on a material change in Sigler’s mental abnormality or personality disorder or in his ability to control his behavior. The Supreme Court agreed.
Sigler also argued his civil commitment should be reversed because the district court did not declare a mistrial of its own accord when a State witness testified incorrectly that Sigler had been civilly committed in an earlier proceeding that was overturned on appeal. The Supreme Court disagreed that this incorrect testimony required the district court to declare a mistrial.
In 2007, a district court sentenced Sigler to seven years of imprisonment following his convictions for criminal sodomy with a child 14 or more years of age but less than 16 years of age, indecent solicitation of a child, and furnishing alcohol to a minor for illicit purposes. In 2013, before Sigler’s release from prison, the State petitioned for a civil commitment order under the Kansas Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA).
The SVPA action went to trial, after which the district court issued a journal entry of judgment summarizing its conclusions about the four SVP elements:
• “Sexually violent predator” is defined as any person convicted of or charged with a sexually violent offense.
• The person suffers from a mental abnormality or personality disorder.
• The mental abnormality or personality disorder “makes the person likely to engage in repeat acts of sexual violence.”
• The person has serious difficulty controlling his or her dangerous behavior.
After parole violations, the district court held a jury trial in February 2017.
According to the Supreme Court opinion:
Forensic psychologist Derek Grimmell, Ph.D., testified as a State expert. Grimmell evaluated Sigler’s file and wrote a report detailing his conclusions that the district court admitted into evidence. Grimmell explained the factors he considered in assessing Sigler’s likelihood to reoffend, including: the number of times Sigler victimized others; the choice of male victims; Sigler’s paraphilic disorder — his attraction to pubescent boys over a long time; and Sigler’s other specified personality disorder with histrionic and borderline features.
Grimmell testified inaccurately that “this case is more dramatic than most because (Sigler) was actually civilly committed once, and then his commitment was overturned by an appeals court. And a lot of guys would have said, wow, that was a real shot across my bow. I better be careful on parole. But not Mr. Sigler.”
The opinion goes on the note:
The court’s instructions to the jury (in 2017) acknowledged the existence of a prior civil commitment proceeding against Sigler:
“In 2013 a petition seeking to involuntarily commit Robert J. Sigler as a sexually-violent predator was filed and was ultimately denied. Do not speculate or otherwise concern yourselves with any potential reasons for any decisions in a prior petition. The present case should be decided upon the facts and circumstances admitted in the present case. You should consider and weigh all admitted evidence in the present petition as a whole and render a decision that is independent of any prior petition.”
The jury determined Sigler was a sexually violent predator after less than an hour of deliberations.
The entire published opinion can be read online at www.kscourts.org/Cases-and-Opinions/opinions/SupCt/2019/20190906/118914.pdf.