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In re Detention of Swanson

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 1, 2019

IN RE THE DETENTION OF ROBERT SWANSON, ROBERT E. SWANSON, Respondent-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Kellyann M. Lekar, Judge.

         Robert Swanson appeals the order continuing his commitment as a sexually violent predator.

          Michael H. Adams of State Public Defender's Office, Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Tyler J. Buller, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Heard by Potterfield, P.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.

          PER CURIAM.

         Robert Swanson appeals the order continuing his commitment as a sexually violent predator under Iowa Code chapter 229A (2017) following an annual review. He challenges the sufficiency of the evidence concerning the existence of a mental abnormality and the likelihood that he will commit a sexually violent offense if discharged from treatment. Because the State has met its burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Swanson's mental abnormality remains such that he is likely to engage in predatory acts that constitute sexually violent offenses if discharged, we affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         The State initiated sexually violent predator proceedings against Swanson after his release from prison in November 2001. While living in a halfway house, Swanson made phone calls and sent a letter to a woman whom he had only brief contact with while asking about a job. The content of those communications was disturbing enough that the woman reported them to the police, who initiated an investigation.

The investigation revealed Swanson had a long history of committing sexually violent offenses. He was charged with his first sexual offense in 1964, at the age of fourteen. In 1973, he was convicted for raping a fourteen-year-old girl. He was released from prison in 1979 and returned there in 1980 after another conviction, this time for sexual abuse in the third degree. He also allegedly assaulted another woman in 1980 who did not report the crime before the statute of limitations on the offense had run. In a letter to the governor in 1984, Swanson pleaded for additional state treatment programs for sex offenders such as him, claiming that he had raped five or six additional women between 1964 and 1973. In the same letter, he claimed he had raped at least one more woman between 1979 and 1980. Finally, while imprisoned for the second time, Swanson called or wrote several women in the Marshalltown area, apparently by randomly finding phone numbers and addresses that were listed with only a single, female name.
Based on his prior criminal record and his own admissions, Swanson had committed about ten sexually violent offenses in his lifetime. However, it was the pattern of his prior conduct that became most alarming as the investigation proceeded. On a number of times in the past, Swanson had randomly contacted single women with whom he had had little or no prior connection in an effort to befriend them. Tragically, some of these women later became victims of his violent sexual assaults.

In re Det. Swanson, 668 N.W.2d 570, 573 (Iowa 2003) (footnotes omitted).

         The State filed a petition seeking to have Swanson determined to be a sexually violent predator. After a jury determined that Swanson is a sexually violent predator, the district court entered an order civilly committing him. Swanson appealed, and our supreme court affirmed Swanson's commitment as a sexually violent predator. Id. at 577.

         Swanson participated in a Civil Commitment Unit for Sexual Offenders (CCUSO) treatment program from 2002 to 2009. During that time, he progressed to Phase 3 of treatment. However, after sending a threatening letter to the Federal District Court, Swanson served a seven-and-one-half-year sentence in federal prison. Although he returned to the CCUSO treatment program after he completed his sentence, he had not progressed beyond Phase 1 in approximately twenty-four months, even though offenders ...


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