Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek asked for privacy Thursday, a day after his adult son faced felony charges for allegedly soliciting sex from a minor using a cellphone tied to his dad’s campaign.
“This is a personal matter and a serious one,” Stanek’s spokesman Mike Zipko said. “Rich does request privacy for his family. He is not taking any time off and is actively working to continue to manage the department to help keep the people of Hennepin County safe.”
Ryan James Stanek was arrested shortly after 10 p.m. on May 19 at the River Hills Mall in Mankato where authorities said the 24-year-old believed he was going to meet a young adult woman and her 13-year-old friend for sex. Instead, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) agents arrested Stanek and took him to the Blue Earth County Justice Center, where he told authorities he intended to meet the 13-year-old for sex and knew it was illegal.
The next day, Sheriff Stanek ended speculation that he would run for governor, announcing on Facebook that he would seek re-election as sheriff, a position he has held since January 2007.
Zipko said the sheriff learned of his son’s arrest after the fact, but did not indicate precisely when.
A day after the sheriff’s re-election announcement, the investigation into Ryan Stanek continued with BCA agents finding images on his cellphone “consistent with child pornography” involving girls as young as 3 and girls engaged in sex acts with animals.
Stanek is charged with soliciting a child to engage in sexual conduct, soliciting a child through electronic communication to engage in sexual conduct, engaging in electronic communication relating or describing sexual conduct with a child, and possessing child pornography. He is to appear in court June 22.
The sheriff said that his son has a phone through the campaign. Through Zipko, Stanek said the cellphone contract is more economical when bundled. His wife and daughter also have cellphones through the campaign.
Zipko said that for years, Stanek has made two monthly payments for the service — one on behalf of his family, the other on behalf of his campaign. Zipko showed copies of bills confirming Stanek’s personal payments for the last couple of months.
The commingling of personal and campaign cellphones under a single account is not unusual for candidates and campaigns, said Jeff Sigurdson, executive director of the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board. He said the arrangement is legal so long as the candidates use personal money to pay for personal phones and money from contributors to pay for campaign phones.
Before he became sheriff, Stanek was a Minneapolis police officer and Republican state representative from Maple Grove.
Since turning 18, Ryan Stanek has been cited for inattentive driving, speeding, driving on a suspended license, loud music and drug possession.
In 2015, Ryan Stanek was sentenced to a year of probation after pleading guilty to drunken driving. He was charged in 2014 with damaging a tree and a horse trail while four-wheeling at Lake Rebecca Park Reserve near Delano.
According to the latest complaint, Ryan Stanek answered questions from BCA agents without a lawyer present. After his arrest, he was booked but released from jail.
Assistant Blue Earth County Attorney Mike Hanson said suspects can be released if investigators have more work to do before turning the case over to prosecutors.