Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Wednesday defended the vote he and two other officials made in 2008 to pardon a man convicted of having sex with his underage girlfriend more than a decade earlier, saying there was no hint the man might be sexually assaulting another girl.
Jeremy Giefer, 36, of Vernon Center in Blue Earth County, was charged in November with sexually assaulting a girl hundreds of times over the past seven years. She is now 17.
Pawlenty urged prosecutors to consider charging Giefer with perjury for possibly lying about being law-abiding when he applied for the pardon.
"Had this new information been available to the Board at the time of the pardon request, the pardon should not and would not have been granted," Pawlenty said in a statement.
Politically, the controversy comes at an inconvenient time for Pawlenty, who is weighing a possible run for president.
In 2008 the Parole Board, made up of Pawlenty, Attorney General Lori Swanson and then-Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson, unanimously pardoned Giefer for his early 1990s conviction of having sex with his 14-year-old girlfriend. Giefer was 19 at the time he was charged with what is commonly called statutory rape and got a 45-day jail sentence. The two later married and remain married.
Asked about the pardon this week, a Pawlenty spokesman noted that the offense "involved sexual conduct between two people who became husband and wife, maintained a long-term marriage, had a family together."
On Wednesday, Pawlenty told reporters: "We all have to keep in mind that this pardon was granted many years after he had served his sentence and been out of jail for many years. ... The granting or not granting of the pardon wouldn't have changed his availability to commit future crimes or the crimes that he's alleged to have committed. We didn't let him out of jail."
In calling for a perjury investigation, Pawlenty noted that applicants for pardons must swear that they have been law-abiding since finishing their sentence, "and [Giefer] indicated under oath that he had been. ... [If the new allegations are true] that was obviously a lie and may well have constituted perjury or another form of fraud."
Pawlenty also said, "The alleged behavior of this individual is sickening, and it makes me heartsick." Giefer is free after posting $250,000 bail.
Writing to prosecutors in Blue Earth and Ramsey counties, Pawlenty acknowledged that the new charges "have not been proven yet in a court of law," but said "the potential perjury or fraud should be investigated."
Blue Earth County Attorney Ross Arneson said he will look into it. He also said the Pardon Board made a "reasonable decision" given the information it had at the time.
Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner, whose office handles cases involving state government, said that before pursuing perjury against Giefer, "it might be prudent to await the outcome of what I view as the more important aspect ... whether or not he committed a crime against yet another victim.
"If he committed a sexual assault, it would be more important to prove that up, and have him be sentenced for that, than to convict him of lying to the Parole Board," she said.
Giefer's attorney, Robert Docherty, said Tuesday that his client says he has done nothing wrong and will be found innocent.
Also Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that the state has shut down a day care run by Giefer's wife, Susan.
The AP obtained a letter from the Health and Human Services Department that said Blue Earth County received a report Nov. 17 that was being investigated by county law enforcement and child protection.
Pawlenty's administration suspended the license, effective Wednesday, saying, "the health, safety and rights of children in your care are in imminent risk of harm."
Jeremy Giefer, who was charged with 12 felony counts on Nov. 18, sought the pardon partly so his wife could open the day care.
Staff writer Rachel Stassen-Berger and the AP contributed to this report. Pat Doyle • 651-222-1210