Nov. 3: Minnesota attorney general tries to block release of serial rapist

  • Article by: PAUL MCENROE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 30, 2013 - 10:14 PM

Swanson says man who committed 60 rapes is still a danger. Dayton supports the DHS, which says offender finished treatment.

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Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson

Photo: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

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Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson is seeking to block the proposed release of a serial rapist from the state Sex Offender Program, raising vehement warnings to Gov. Mark Dayton in correspondence about the dangers to the public if the man is freed.

But in an interview Friday with the Star Tribune, Dayton rebuffed Swanson’s efforts and voiced support for the recommendations made by the Department of Human Services (DHS) to release Thomas Duvall, a rapist who has attacked at least 60 women. Duvall also kept logs of his fantasies while in therapy that describe his desire to sexually attack juveniles.

“Look, I share the same feeling as the public — lock ’em up the rest of their lives, why should we take a chance?’’ Dayton said. “But the real question is are we ever going to take responsibility for this backdoor, indiscriminate way of leaving these people warehoused forever?”

A special DHS review board concluded in August that Duvall had shown enough progress in treatment to warrant recommending that a panel of judges grant him a provisional discharge.

If the state Supreme Court Appeal Panel agrees with the DHS, the 57-year-old Duvall would become only the second person in 18 years released from the controversial program. The state is under federal court pressure to end its policy of continuing to hold offenders in the prisonlike sex treatment program indefinitely, even after they’ve completed treatment.

In an e-mail exchange in September between Dayton and Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson, the governor raised specific questions about Duvall’s therapy records and the severity of his crimes, but told Jesson he would defer to her judgment.

The e-mails were released by Jesson’s office after the Star Tribune requested them under the Minnesota Data Practices Act. Neither Jesson nor Swanson would comment on the case.

Separate records obtained by the Star Tribune from sources show that Duvall’s sexual “fantasy logs” — used as a therapy tool — contain “sexual thoughts and fantasies related to juveniles and sexual violence.” Duvall’s writings show that he objectifies women as “sexual body parts,” mixing fantasies with memories of his past rapes, the documents reveal.

As recently as 2012, Duvall was considered “a high-risk” to sexually offend again, according to assessment records reviewed by the Star Tribune. In seeking to block Duvall’s release, Swanson questions how an offender who was deemed unfit for discharge just a year ago could now be considered rehabilitated.

After Swanson alerted Dayton in September to her concerns about Duvall, the governor wrote an e-mail to Jesson on the evening of Sept. 30, under the heading, “Mn Sex Offender Release dispute between AG and Cindy Jesson.” The body of Dayton’s message reads: “Cindy, I’ll support your doing whatever you think is right. How do you respond to the 2012 fantasy logs? Also to the # & severity of his crimes? Mark.”

Hours later, Jesson replied, explaining that she supported Duvall’s petition for release “despite his horrendous past” because he met the treatment criteria for provisional discharge.

“The sexual histories of almost all the sex offender clients DHS treats are horrendous,” she wrote. “Sadly, the number of victims of Mr. Duvall is not atypical.”

Jesson said provisional discharge is based on “the picture of the person after treatment. Even if the individual committed terrible crimes before entering the program, the question is where the person is after treatment.”

Further, she informed Dayton that it was “significant” that the Hennepin County attorney’s office, which prosecuted several of Duvall’s rapes, agrees with her position that he should be released.

“As far as the ‘fantasy logs,’ these sexual logs are actually a treatment tool,” Jesson wrote. “Clients are encouraged to be honest about their sexual thoughts.” She admitted that there is “no ironclad promise of success,” but she assured Dayton that Duvall would not be released into “the general community” and would be more closely monitored than counterparts leaving state prisons.

In the past, the DHS has said that a released offender would be required to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet 24 hours a day, take regular drug tests, be under camera surveillance in a residence and be accompanied by a counselor while in public or at work.

Dayton, in the Friday interview, said previous administrations and legislative sessions have “ducked” the issue of what to do with offenders who have served their prison sentences and completed the sex offender program. He believes it’s time to confront how to balance the outrage that people feel toward sex offenders with the constitutional issue of keeping them behind bars indefinitely, in legal limbo.

“The public deserves to have a vigorous debate in the Legislature next session on longer sentencing for convicted sex offenders, in order to deal with this issue on the front end,” Dayton said.

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