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4th Circuit Affirms Dismissal of "Adam-Walsh" Prosecution of Sean Robert Francis

Sean Robert Francis, whose "Adam-Walsh" civil commitment proceedings were the subject of a recent Prison Legal News cover story, has won yet another legal victory. Francis had previously prevailed in a district court action wherein the judge ruled that he was not a "sexually-dangerous" person, as defined by 18 U.S.C. Section 4248(a), also known as the "Adam-Walsh Act." The 4th Circuit recently affirmed that district court judgment.

Pursuant to that Act, the Attorney General, his designee, or the Director of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) may initiate civil commitment proceedings by filing in the district court for the district in which the individual is confined to establish that the individual is sexually dangerous. A hearing must be held, and if the district court concludes that the person is sexually dangerous by the government's clear and convincing evidence, he may be confined to the custody of the Attorney General. 18 U.S.C. Section 4248(d). Once committed, an individual remains confined until he is "no longer sexually dangerous to others." 18 U.S.C. Section 4248(e). He may seek periodic review of that confinement every 180 days. 18 U.S.C. Section 4247(h).

Francis had a history of initiating threatening interstate phone calls in violation of 18 U.S.C. Section 875(c), was arrested and found guilty, and sentenced to 22 months imprisonment and a three-year term of supervised release. He was again taken into custody for making additional telephone calls, and released in 2003. He reoffended, and was sentenced to 70 months, and released in 2009.

Francis was rearrested for conduct not related to making obscene telephone calls, and while in custody, the government initiated the "Adam-Walsh" action. As part of this proceeding, Francis was examined by four licensed clinical psychologists, who provided widely varying diagnosis of Francis current condition. The district court judge found the findings of Dr. Plaud, Francis' expert, to be the most credible, and in a carefully-worded decision determined that he was not a sexually dangerous person as defined by the Act, and noted that many of Francis alleged sexual offenses were of his own fabrication and embellish so he could remain in sex offender treatment, rather than be returned to prison.

The Appellate Court stated that the certification requires a two-step process, wherein the individual must have "engaged or attempted to engage in sexually violent conduct or child molestation," and is "sexually dangerous," suffering from a "serious mental illness, abnormality, or disorder," and "would have serious difficulty in refraining from sexually violent conduct or child molestation if released." 18 U.S.C. Section 4247(a)(6). U.S. v. Comstock, 627 F. 3d 513, 515-516 (4th Cir. 2010)

"In sum," the Appellate Court said, "we hold that the district court analyzed the evidence in accordance with the framework provided in the Act … weighed the testimony of the several expert witnesses and ... considered Francis' own testimony... (and based on this record in which credibility determination and assessments (were made), ...we hold that the district court did not err in determining that the government failed to prove its case by clear and convincing evidence..."

In the final analysis, because of a well-reasoned opinion based upon a thorough and complete record showing that the district court carefully considered all evidence before him, the long legal ordeal of Sean Robert Francis has finally come to a close.

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