Minnesota State Rep. Kurt Zellers on Friday joined the growing ranks of public officials speaking out against the proposed release of a violent serial rapist recommended for release from the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP), calling it wrongheaded and dangerous.
Zellers, R-Maple Grove, who is running for governor, spoke to reporters outside the office of Attorney General Lori Swanson as he delivered a letter in support of her request to block the release of Thomas Duvall, 58, Duvall, who was convicted three times of sexually assaulting teenage girls, and has attacked at least 60 women. Duvall also kept logs of his fantasies while in therapy that describe his desire to sexually attack juveniles.
“My job as a dad, and a public servant, is to protect my kids and your children; your spouses,”Zellers said. “Letting Mr. Duvall out of prison would be absolutely failing in that duty.”
A panel of three state judges will hear arguments today on whether to hold an in-depth hearing similar to a trial on Duvall’s proposed provisional release from the 18-year-old program. If released, he would be only the second person discharged from the program.
An internal panel at the state Department of Human Services has recommended a supervised discharge for Duvall, saying that Duvall met the criteria for a provisional discharge. DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson did not oppose that recommendation, but asked for an independent examination of Duvall before the hearing. Gov. Mark Dayton backed Jesson's stance.
Zellers was skeptical that Duvall was rehabilitated, citing reports from a year ago, in which a court-appointed therapist said Duvall was a “sexual sadist” who “fails to recognize he was on track to kill a victim.”
Zellers said the concern for children’s safety should Duvall be released is shared by parents across the state.
“One of the hockey moms said to me at practice on Sunday, ‘Why the hell would the governor let this guy out?’ And that’s the problem.” Zellers said.
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. Zellers said he’s happy to continue to work on reforms on detaining violent offenders, but “releasing (Duvall) today isn’t going to keep our citizens safe.”
“The suggestion should be ‘No, we are not going to let these guys go; you should not let them go.’” He said.
Should the controversial program ever be deemed unconstitutional, Zellers said he would fight on a case-by-case basis in the courts to keep the state’s most dangerous offenders locked up.
“Because the alternative,” he said. “is another victim."
Here's Zellers' letter: