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Dayton changes course, wants to suspend release of sex offenders

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Gov. Mark Dayton has changed his tune on a controversial decision to release a serial rapist from state supervision.

The Associated Press reported Dayton directed the state's Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Lucinda Jesson to halt provisional releases of those civilly committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) until the state Legislature can make changes to the program.

At a news conference Wednesday, the Star Tribune said Dayton lashed out at the "political circus" the issue has become.

Just last week, the governor had said he supported the provisional release of Thomas Duvall, 58, who has spent the last 13 years in the sex offender program. Duvall has been convicted three times for raping teenage girls and has attacked at least 60 women.

The newspaper said Dayton, who's up for re-election next year, was criticized by his political opponents for not opposing Duvall's release initially.

In August, a special review board within DHS recommended that Duvall be released, saying he has met the treatment criteria for provisional discharge.

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson is also seeking to block Duvall's release. She filed a motion for a formal public hearing on the proposal, which was granted by a state Supreme Court appeals panel last Friday. A five-day hearing has tentatively been scheduled for early April.

The state is under federal court pressure to end its policy of holding sex offenders indefinitely. Of the nearly 700 offenders in the MSOP, only one has been released in the past 18 years.

Jesson told the Associated Press that three appeals in the pipeline, including Duvall's, will move forward.

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