Rochester GOP Rep. Mike Benson is calling on Gov. Mark Dayton to reverse a decision that would allow the state's first civilly-committed sex offender to be released from the Minnesota Sex Offender Program.
In an email newsletter, Benson said he is angry state Human Services Commission Lucinda Jesson did not object to the release of Clarence Opheim. A three-judge panel ruled last week that the 64-year-old sex offender should be released to a halfway house after 19 years in the state program. He was convicted of criminal sexual assault of an 11-year-old boy in the 1980s and has admitted to a total of 29 victims.
Benson called Jesson's decision to sign-off on Opheim's release "simply outrageous." In the email, he states, "Having preyed on 30 victims, it’s clear Mr. Opheim can be classified as the worst of the worst, so I am extremely interested in learning why Governor Dayton’s commissioner feels it’s time for him to now live in a halfway house as opposed to being isolated from society."
House GOP leaders have also blasted the decision and plan to hold a legislative hearing on the issue Feb. 15 before the Health and Human Services Reform Committee, which Benson serves on. Click here to read Download GOP House leaders' letter
Jesson had originally opposed Opheim's release but changed her position after an independent, court-appointed examiner determined that Opheim deserved to be released because he had completed the states treatment program. He will be under 24-hour hour surveillance and required to wear an ankle-bracelet monitor. Gov. Mark Dayton defended Jesson's decision in a letter to GOP House leaders saying she reviewed it with him and they determined it was the right thing to do. He warns that since no civilly-committed sex offenders have ever been released from the program, it could be successfully challenged in court and lead to serious public safety concerns. Click here to Download Gov. Mark Dayton's letter
But Benson argues Opheim poses too great a risk to the community to be released from the state's ex offender program.
"I have no idea why sending a sexual predator to live in a densely populated area would be in the best interests of Minnesotans. With his extensive record of sex offenses, it’s clear this is a person that cannot and should not be trusted.
Governor Dayton needs to do the right thing and reverse this decision. This man has already wrecked the lives of 30 children; do we really want to put another child at risk?"