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The criminal patterns that lead to civil commitment show why this legal action is reserved for extreme circumstances. A 50-year-old Ramsey County man convicted of sexually assaulting six people admitted, during treatment, that he had assaulted at least a hundred more boys and girls between the ages of 2 months and 18 years. Another Ramsey County man was convicted of three violent rapes and diagnosed as a sexual sadist. A 33-year-old Carlton County man had raped and murdered a woman and sexually touched women during 15 burglaries.
Several of the offenders didn’t hire a lawyer to prepare their appeals. The arguments for removal from the treatment program included a lack of evidence that criteria for commitment were met, inaccurate determinations of whether a offender was highly likely to reoffend, ineffective counsel, a request for a less-restrictive alternative to commitment and the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy.
Each Court of Appeals denial addressed the legal issues relevant to the case. And every ruling stated that the review was occurring in a light most favorable to the district court’s findings. The higher court said a lower court’s decision had to be clearly erroneous for it to be overturned.
The only case with a dissenting opinion from an Appeals Court judge involved Cedrick Ince, 24, who served less than three years in prison for two sexual assaults. In his dissent, Judge Larry Stauber said Ince’s civil commitment was clearly erroneous because he didn’t have the required history of violent behavior and wasn’t highly likely to reoffend.
“The fact that this case even made it to district court for a commitment hearing is also interesting and strange,” Stauber said.
Ince’s case will be reviewed by the Minnesota Supreme Court.
A faulty crystal ball?
Attorney Greg Schmidt has represented several offenders fighting civil commitment. One of his clients was accepted to a long-term outpatient treatment facility where he would have been under intense supervision by the Department of Corrections, Schmidt said. But when Washington County officials petitioned for civil commitment, the treatment facility rejected him.
The decision to commit him was based largely on psychological experts’ predictions about his possibility of reoffending, Schmidt said, adding that nothing in that process is clearly objective.
“It’s a judgment call,” he said. “They’re trying to looking into the future.”
David Chanen • 612-673-4465