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Stengel v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

May 2, 2018

JAMES T. STENGEL, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit, Palm Beach County; Glenn D. Kelley, Judge; L.T. Case No. 50-2016-CF-007027-AXXX-MB.

          Carey Haughwout, Public Defender, and Ian Seldin, Assistant Public Defender, West Palm Beach, for appellant.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Matthew Steven Ocksrider, Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, for appellee.

          Levine, J.

         The state sought to involuntarily commit appellant as a sexually violent predator under the Jimmy Ryce Act. The state's expert examined appellant in July 2015. The trial commenced in February 2017. The jury found appellant to be a sexually violent predator. Appellant argues that the trial court should have granted a directed verdict since the state's expert evaluation was nineteen months old at the time of trial and therefore too "stale" to be considered by the jury as the basis for commitment. We decline to adopt appellant's suggested "bright-line" rule and find there was competent, substantial evidence upon which the jury could find appellant to be a sexually violent predator. As such, we affirm.

         A week before trial, appellant sought a court order limiting each side to one expert witness. Appellant argued:

It is important to know that the defense does not plan on disputing the diagnoses that the State's doctors gave [appellant]. The crux of the defense in this case is that [appellant] does not meet criteria because [he] is not likely to reoffend (not that he doesn't have a mental abnormality). Additionally, the defense has no intention to dispute the state's experts on the STATIC score they assigned to [appellant].

         At trial, each side presented testimony from one psychologist. Dr. Sheila Rapa testified for the state. She examined appellant in July 2015 and recounted appellant's history of sexually violent offenses.

         In 1991, appellant followed a restaurant employee home, asked her if somebody was next door, and then asked to come in to use her telephone. After the woman let appellant in, he grabbed her and carried her upstairs where he forced her to perform oral sex and then vaginally raped her. Afterwards, he forced her to wash in the shower.

         Two days later, he grabbed a woman as she was leaving the spa and pulled her down to the embankment of a canal. He held a knife to her throat and told her to be quiet. He digitally penetrated her while he masturbated. He ejaculated on her and wiped it off with a towel. He then forced her to perform oral sex on him.

         In 1992, appellant approached a woman walking to her apartment and asked her where somebody lived. When she said she did not know, he asked for a piece of paper to write on. When the woman tried to close her apartment door to get him a piece of paper, he pushed his way in, pulled her shirt over her head, and put his mouth on her breasts. He forced her to the bedroom and digitally penetrated her. He ran out of the apartment when he thought he heard somebody come in. He then broke a window and came back in while she was on the phone trying to call 911, but left after the woman promised not to call anybody.

         Right after that crime, appellant knocked on another door and asked a woman if somebody lived there. She thought it was suspicious, so she wrote down his license plate number. Based on this information, the police apprehended appellant. DNA evidence connected him to the two 1991 cases. Appellant pled no contest and was sentenced to prison. He was placed on sex offender probation following his release from prison in 2003.

         While on probation in 2007, appellant removed a window screen and peeped into a woman's house while masturbating. He fled after a young girl saw him. The police apprehended ...


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