A violent sex offender with a history of beating women in the face and choking them until they pass out will remain in secure custody indefinitely, a Minnesota appeals court judge has decided.

Harley Beverly Morris, 60, had appealed his civil commitment by the Washington County attorney's office on grounds that his pimping for prostitutes in his crime-ridden past didn't constitute harmful sexual conduct.

But Judge Roger Klaphake disagreed, affirming an earlier district court decision to send Morris to the state's Sex Offender Treatment Program at Moose Lake. Klaphake's opinion, released Tuesday, means Morris will remain in a secure state hospital indefinitely.

"Danger to women in the community was such that we needed to pursue this," said Rick Hodsdon, the assistant Washington County attorney handling the case. Before his commitment, Morris had been serving a 10-year sentence at Faribault prison for severely beating his then-wife in Woodbury after she filed for divorce.

His long list of crimes included a role in a gang rape of an 18-year-old woman in 1968 and a manslaughter conviction in the savage beating of a prostitute working for him in California about 15 years later.

Morris would be walking Minnesota streets today if not for civil commitment, Hodsdon said. Psychologists had concluded "there was a virtual certainty that he would reoffend," Hodsdon said.

Klaphake, in his opinion, wrote that psychologist Harry Hoberman had evaluated Morris and found that he "has a well-delineated pattern of physical violence towards his prostitutes and intimate partners, including choking/strangling them to unconsciousness."

Morris' "trademark," one victim said, was "beating his girls in the face" and choking them.

District Judge Elizabeth Martin didn't err -- as Morris alleged in his appeal -- when she committed him on the premise that he had demonstrated a course of harmful sexual conduct, Klaphake wrote.

The affirmed commitment was the second victory in as many weeks for Washington County Attorney Pete Orput's office. The first kept Andrew Busskohl of Woodbury behind lock and key. Busskohl still entertains fantasies of assassinating and dismembering strangers selected from a phone directory, according to that appeals court opinion.

Kevin Giles • 651-925-5037 Twitter: @stribgiles