US v. Thomas Conroy, No. 13-6869 (4th Cir. 2013)

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UNPUBLISHED UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT No. 13-6869 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Petitioner Appellee, v. THOMAS CONROY, Respondent - Appellant. Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, at Raleigh. W. Earl Britt, Senior District Judge. (5:06-hc-02050-BR) Submitted: November 19, 2013 Decided: November 22, 2013 Before GREGORY, SHEDD, and WYNN, Circuit Judges. Affirmed by unpublished per curiam opinion. Thomas P. McNamara, Federal Public Defender, Joseph Bart Gilbert, Assistant Federal Public Defender, Susan Umstead, Research & Writing Attorney, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellant. Thomas G. Walker, United States Attorney, Jennifer P. May-Parker, Jennifer D. Dannels, Assistant United States Attorneys, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellee. Unpublished opinions are not binding precedent in this circuit. PER CURIAM: Thomas Conroy appeals the district court s order continuing his civil commitment pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4246 (2012). As set forth below, we affirm. I. In March 2005, the United States District Court for the Central District of California found Conroy incompetent to stand trial on a charge of mailing a threatening communication, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 876(c) (2012). Thereafter, the California district court ordered that Conroy be transported to the Bureau of Prisons facility at Butner, North Carolina, and evaluated for civil commitment pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4246. 1 Later, the Government filed a certificate of mental disease or defect and dangerousness in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. 2 That court the district 1 Section 4246 applies to individuals who are due for release from federal custody either because they have been found not competent to stand trial, because the charges against them have been dropped solely because of mental illness, or because they have completely served their sentences of imprisonment. United States v. Baker, 45 F.3d 837, 840 n.1 (4th Cir. 1995). 2 Under § 4246(a), the director of the facility in which a person found incompetent to stand trial is hospitalized may certify that the person is presently suffering from a mental disease or defect as a result of which his release would create a substantial risk of bodily injury to another person or serious damage to property of another, and that suitable arrangements for State custody and care of the person are not available, and the director shall transmit the certificate to the clerk of the (Continued) 2 court below later held a § 4246 hearing to determine Conroy s mental condition. After finding by clear and convincing evidence that Conroy was then suffering from a mental disease or defect as a result of which his release would create a substantial risk of bodily injury to another person or serious damage to the property of another, the district court committed him to the care and custody of the Attorney General under 18 U.S.C. § 4246(d) by order dated July 11, 2006. On June 20, 2007, the district court ordered Conroy s conditional release to a group housing facility in Durham, North Carolina. In July 2010, the district court revoked Conroy s release, and Conroy was returned to FMC Butner. In August 2012, the Warden of FMC Butner filed an annual forensic report with the district court in accordance with 18 U.S.C. § 4247(e)(1)(B) (2012) concerning Conroy s mental condition and the need for his continued commitment. The report was signed by FMC Butner staff psychiatrist Dr. Ralph Newman and staff psychologist Dr. Adeirdre Riley ( the FMC staffers ) and contained references to Conroy s relevant background history, a court for the district in which the person is confined. 18 U.S.C. § 4246(a). Because Conroy was then hospitalized at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina ( FMC Butner ), the certificate was filed in the Eastern District of North Carolina. 3 mental health § 4246. diagnosis, and a risk assessment pursuant to The annual report reflects that Conroy was diagnosed as suffering from Schizophrenia, Undifferentiated Type, and that, in the year since FMC Butner s last update court, his mental status had deteriorated. to the district In this regard, the report reflects that Conroy demonstrated a prominent thought disorder and voiced the primary delusion that a device able to control his behavior had been inserted into his neck when he was a child. The FMC staffers opined that Conroy s judgment and insight his into condition were impaired and noted that he in the viewed medication as having no effect on himself. The report further reflects, however, that, five months preceding its filing, Conroy s mental status had slowly improved, preoccupation with as evidenced auditory by a hallucinations decrease and a in decrease his in references to the device that he believed had been inserted into his neck. with FMC Although the report reflects that Conroy had complied Butner s regulations and had received no incident reports or disciplinary actions in the three months preceding the filing of the report, he also chose not to participate in therapeutic groups or an institutional job assignment, and he continued to struggle with anxiety and restlessness. staffers opined that Conroy s improvement was guarded. 4 prognosis for The FMC additional The several report factors behavior, further associated including: relates with his a that Conroy of history past risk of exhibited future violent violence; his schizophrenia diagnosis and history of acting in response to his persecutory delusions of being followed or surveilled; his history of gun possession; his lack of a social support system; and the deterioration in his mental health status. In light of these factors, Conroy s poor insight into his condition, and the fact that delusions, hallucinations, and a thought disorder remained, the appropriate FMC staffers candidate opined for that conditional Conroy was release not into an the community. The district court later granted Conroy s motions for a hearing commitment to determine under whether § 4246 should for and he the independent mental health examiner. be discharged appointment of from an The independent examiner, psychiatrist Dr. Holly Rogers, completed a written report after evaluating Conroy and considering his medical chart, prison file, the annual report, Rogers s prior evaluation of Conroy, and a conditional release violation report. although the most accurate diagnosis Rogers opined that, for Conroy was Schizoaffective Disorder, Bipolar Type, the difference between this diagnosis and a diagnosis of Schizophrenia was somewhat academic, as the treatment for both conditions would be the 5 same. In Dr. Rogers s view, there was evidence in Conroy s case both for and against his posing a risk of future dangerousness. Factors that increased his risk of future dangerousness included: the nature of his illness, which Rogers characterized as a difficult to treat, chronic psychotic illness ; Conroy s level of insight into his illness, which Rogers opined was associated with an unlikelihood that he would continue treatment of his own accord; Conroy s history of acquiring weapons and acting on his paranoid beliefs; and his lack of a relationship with family members willing to care and take responsibility for him. Factors dangerousness that mitigated included: his against his intelligence and risk of future capability for self-sufficiency when his psychotic symptoms were under control; and his lack of a substance abuse history. Dr. Rogers opined, however, that these mitigating factors did not outweigh the risk factors and that Conroy thus still was suffering from a mental disease and, as a result of the disease, presented a substantial risk of future dangerousness to others or their property such that he continued to meet the criteria for continued commitment under § 4246. After a hearing at which Conroy testified, Dr. Newman testified as an expert in the field of forensic psychiatry, and the annual report and Dr. Rogers s report were admitted into evidence, the district court determined that Conroy continued to 6 meet the ordered criteria Conroy s for care continued and treatment commitment. under Conroy § 4246 now and appeals, arguing that the district court erred in ordering his continued commitment. II. A. A person committed under 18 U.S.C. § 4246 may, through his counsel or legal guardian, file a motion for a hearing to determine whether he should be released. 18 U.S.C. § 4247(h). The district court that ordered the commitment may discharge the person committed if it finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the person has recovered from his mental disease or defect to such an extent that his release would no longer create a substantial risk of bodily injury to another person or serious damage to property of another. Id. § 4246(e)(1)-(2). The bears committed proving he Appellant, person has 665 so seeking discharge recovered. F.3d 620, Sealed 623 & the burden Appellee n.4 (5th of v. Sealed Cir. 2011); United States v. Evanoff, 10 F.3d 559, 563 (8th Cir. 1993). The district court s finding that continued commitment is warranted is overturn unless 964 F.2d 1431, a factual clearly 1433 (4th determination erroneous. Cir. 1992). this United A court will not States v. Cox, finding is clearly erroneous when, although there is evidence to support it, the 7 reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed. United States v. Harvey, 532 F.3d 326, 336-37 (4th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted). However, if the district court s account of the evidence is plausible in light of the record viewed in its entirety, this court will not reverse the district court s finding even if it would have decided the fact differently. (4th Cir. United States v. Stevenson, 396 F.3d 538, 542 2005) (internal quotation marks and alteration omitted). B. We conclude that the continued district commitment court s were not findings justifying Conroy s clearly erroneous. First, the FMC staffers and Dr. Rogers through their testimony and reports agreed that Conroy suffers from a mental illness, disagreeing only on the exact classification of the disease. that Although the FMC staffers diagnosis differed from given by Dr. Rogers, she herself characterized the difference as somewhat academic, and Dr. Newman stated during his hearing schizoaffective testimony disorder that would be both schizophrenia treated same manner and had similar prognoses. in virtually and the While Conroy argues on appeal that the preponderance of the evidence produced at the hearing showed that he had recovered from his schizophrenia to 8 the extent that his release would not create a substantial danger to the community, he makes this argument in a wholly conclusory fashion. nothing in the Moreover, after review, we conclude that record contradicts the opinions that continues to suffer from a mental disease or defect. Conroy In the hearing below, Conroy offered no testimony or other evidence suggesting that he had recovered from his illness, and nothing else in the record on appeal suggests that Conroy has recovered from his illness. Accordingly, the district court did not clearly err when it found that Conroy continued to suffer from a mental disease or defect. Second, the totality of the evidence before the district court established that, in light of Conroy s mental illness, his release would create a substantial risk of bodily injury to another. another person or serious damage to property of In support of their opinion, the FMC staffers reported that Conroy exhibited several factors associated with a risk of future violence, and, during his hearing testimony, Dr. Newman reiterated his conclusion in that report that Conroy still met the criteria under § 4246 for continued commitment. Dr. Rogers also opined that Conroy exhibited factors associated with a risk of future violence, that the mitigating factors present in his case did not outweigh the risk factors, and that Conroy thus met the criteria under § 4246 for continued commitment. 9 The factors relied upon by these professionals are among those typically considered by mental health professionals in conducting risk assessments under § 4246. E.g., United States v. Ecker, 30 F.3d 966, 970 (8th Cir. 1994); Cox, 964 F.2d at 1433. Thus, established that the evidence Conroy s before the would create release district a court substantial risk of bodily injury to another person or serious damage to the property of another. Conroy responds by arguing that the finding in the annual report conjecture of and possible speculation dangerousness and thus is not is based sufficient support a conclusion of substantial risk under § 4246. on to Conroy emphasizes that Drs. Newman and Rogers through their testimony and reports made note of his intelligence and capability for self-sufficiency, his lack of a recent, significant history of substance abuse, his improvements in insight into his illness, institutional adjustment, and compliance with his medication regimen, and his demonstrated ability to live a period of time free from violence against others however, misstates the record. at FMC Butner. The annual report does not make a finding of possible dangerousness as Conroy claims. the report reflects the Conroy, opinion that Conroy s Rather, continued commitment under § 4246 was appropriate in light of several risk factors. Moreover, § 4246 s 10 dangerousness evaluation and determination consider require the evaluators committed and person s psychological profile. the district entire court behavioral to and United States v. Williams, 299 F.3d 673, 677 (8th Cir. 2002); see Cox, 964 F.2d at 1433. Conroy s intelligence, capabilities, and improvements were but pieces of the data among the broad spectrum of information properly considered. Because the evaluators in this case considered a host of relevant factors convincing them that Conroy still was suffering from a mental disease or defect to the extent that his release would create a substantial risk of bodily injury to another person or serious damage to the property of another, the evidence cleared the hurdle that Conroy s release presented a substantial risk. 18 U.S.C. § 4246(d). Accordingly, Conroy did not meet his burden to show that he had recovered, and the district court did not clearly err in relying on the uncontroverted opinion evidence to find that Conroy continued to satisfy the criteria for civil commitment under § 4246. III. We therefore affirm the continuing Conroy s civil commitment. district court s order We dispense with oral argument because the facts and legal contentions are adequately 11 presented in the materials before this court and argument would not aid the decisional process. AFFIRMED 12