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

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

“We’ve got to be extremely careful and get this right because nobody wants to make a mistake and put another person in jeopardy,” he added. “Because what do you say to the parents of the next teenage girl who’s been raped by one of these offenders who’s been released? That’s my principal worry.”

De facto life sentence

Currently, 698 offenders have been indefinitely committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP), held under what is regarded as a de facto life sentence within barbed-wire-protected facilities in Moose Lake and St. Peter.

A class-action suit has been filed in federal court by offenders who say their confinement violates their constitutional rights, since they’ve completed both court-ordered prison sentences and treatment. The DHS has formed a 15-member task force that is expected to provide reform recommendations to state legislators by December.

Last year, an aging pedophile who was found not to be a significant risk was granted a provisional release. In May 2012, a state judicial appeals panel rejected the department’s recommendation to release John Rydberg, a serial rapist with a criminal history similar to Duvall’s.

In August, a special review board within the DHS recommended to a panel of judges that they grant Duvall’s petition to be released.

But in recently filed court papers, Swanson argues that the judges’ panel should not consider Duvall’s release until they’ve heard her attorneys present evidence that she says contradicts the review board’s finding. Her motion to intervene and argue that the judges order an in-depth hearing — similar to a trial — will be heard Nov. 8.

In October, the Hennepin County attorney’s office sent a letter to the panel’s chief judge asking that Duvall be released without a hearing. The office said the court should order Swanson to destroy any of Duvall’s medical records in her possession.

Swanson’s attorneys will argue that the MSOP records are not accurate and that the plans to release Duvall are ill-considered. For example, the review board’s records show that Duvall sexually assaulted 60 victims. But Duvall admitted to an expert that he “had up to 100 ‘hands on’ victims and up to double that number in total victims, with his first rape occurring when he was 15 years old,” documents show.

Swanson also has questioned why the DHS would consider it appropriate to discharge Duvall to a Twin Cities halfway house where he lived when he raped a teenage girl while on a temporary pass, just weeks after his 1987 release from prison.

In 2012, after Duvall had petitioned for release, a court-appointed doctor evaluated Duvall and concluded he was a “sexual sadist,” warning there was little in the treatment records that addressed that fact. Duvall “doesn’t recognize that his attitudes towards women do not represent ‘disgust,’ but hatred, deep seated hostility and elements of homicidal rage,” the doctor wrote. He said Duvall “fails to recognize he was on track to kill a victim.”

After a second doctor — hired by the DHS — voiced concerns over Duvall’s “fantasy logs,” Duvall withdrew his discharge request.

In April, he applied again and was last assessed in June, reportedly progressing well enough for Jesson to support his discharge.

Having a voice

Two weeks ago, Jesson acknowledged that Swanson has raised legitimate public safety concerns, but said she would not waver in her position. In a letter to the court, she said that she’d be willing to have Duvall evaluated again but that one of her experts was not available until January.

In a statement Friday, the Hennepin County attorney’s office said it didn’t oppose Duvall’s discharge because he has completed his treatment. “He has done everything society has asked him to do and he’s coming out under very strict conditions. Fundamental fairness requires that he be given the opportunity to live in a less restrictive environment,” the statement said.

Two of Duvall’s victims, raped at ages 17 and 15, filed affidavits with the court, describing how they were repeatedly attacked while he held a knife or shotgun to them. One woman, whom Duvall raped with a curling iron, said in her affidavit that when she met with an assistant Hennepin County attorney in August, she was told that Duvall “has a very low risk [of] reoffending.”

She said the attorney, George Widseth, made her feel disregarded and told her that the federal court would order an end to the program if no one is ever released.

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