House GOP leaders call Minn. sex offender's release 'reckless'

  • Updated: February 6, 2012 - 11:24 PM

House Republican leaders said Monday they will hold hearings on the pending release of a convicted pedophile from the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, calling the move "reckless'' and asking the Dayton administration to explain why Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson dropped her original objections to such a move.

Last Friday, a three-judge panel ordered that Clarence Opheim, 64, be discharged to a St. Paul halfway house after being held as a patient since 1994. He would be the first such committed patient to be released by a judicial decision since the program began.

Jesson said in an interview last week that she opposed Opheim's release as late as early January, but reversed her position after reading a report from an independent, court-appointed examiner who concluded that Opheim deserved a greater degree of freedom after accomplishing the requirements of his treatment program.

Under the terms of his discharge, Opheim will be under 24-hour surveillance with an ankle-braclet monitor and continuous face-to-face meetings with probation officers, and he must attend numerous Alcoholics Anonymous meetings each week. His release is expected in March.

Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, and House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, said a hearing will be held Feb. 15 before the Health and Human Services Reform Committee. "The committee is particularly interested in how the official assessment of Mr. Opheim's fitness for release changed so drastically in less than one year," the legislators said in a release.

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