Attorney General, Governor disagree over process to release serial rapist

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A serial rapist's future has created a divide between Gov. Mark Dayton and Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson.

The Star Tribune reports that a special review board within the state's Department of Human Services (DHS) in August recommended the provisional release of Thomas Duvall, 57, a rapist who has attacked at least 60 women. A Supreme Court Appeal panel will next review the case. But Swanson is seeking to block his release because of his danger to the public.

In court papers, Swanson argued that the judges’ panel should not consider Duvall’s release until they’ve heard her attorneys present evidence that she says contradicts the review board’s finding. DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson acknowledged Swanson's public safety concerns, but said that Duvall has met the treatment criteria for provisional discharge.

Meanwhile, in an interview with the newspaper, Dayton voiced support for the DHS recommendation. Dayton said lawmakers have long “ducked” the issue of what to do with offenders who have served their prison sentences and completed the sex offender program. He said it’s time to confront the constitutional issue of keeping them behind bars indefinitely.

Only one sex offender has been released from the program in the past 18 years. The state is under federal court pressure to end its policy of continuing to hold sex offenders indefinitely. Currently, 698 offenders have been indefinitely committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program at facilities in Moose Lake and St. Peter.

In 2011, the Associated Press included Duvall in a story about sex offenders who have reached the final stage of treatment before they can seek provisional discharge. The story called Minnesota "among the most reluctant states to release committed sex offenders," noting that Wisconsin's sex-offender treatment program has discharged more than 60 sex offenders since 1995. Two weeks ago, DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson acknowledged that Swanson raised public safety concerns, but said she would not waver in her position. In a letter to the court, she said that she’d be willing to have Duvall evaluated again but that one of her experts was not available until January.

Last month, it was reported that a state task force set up to review treatment for sex offenders may release a recommendation to establish a new court to review which offenders should be locked up and when they might be released. The recommendations are expected by December 1st.

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