La Crescent man wrongly imprisoned for 2 years stands to get nearly $500K


A southeastern Minnesota man who served more than two years in prison before he was found to be innocent will be compensated $475,000 if a panel's recommendation is approved by the Legislature.

His lawyer tells the Star Tribune 50 year old Roger Olsen suffers from post-traumatic stress since serving time in Stillwater Correctional Facility for sexually assaulting a child. Olsen was released in 2008, the newspaper says, after investigators discovered evidence that his accuser had lied.

Attorney Steve Meshbesher tells FOX 9 Olsen was subjected to assaults and abuse from Stillwater inmates who targeted him because he'd been labeled a child rapist.

Olsen tells the station: "I tried to fight my way out of it by writing all kinds of letters, got all kinds of denials. At one point, I tried to take my life in there."

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WCCO reports Olsen's accuser in 2006 was his stepdaughter, who was in fourth grade at the time.

Olsen tells the station that since his release he's been depressed, unable to find work, and is scared to be alone with women or children for fear of being falsely accused.

New state law allows compensation

Under a Minnesota law that took effect just last year, people who are exonerated after serving prison time qualify for money from the state. Advocates for the law – including the Minnesota Innocence Project – say the payments compensate those wrongly imprisoned for lost earnings, emotional stress, and the physical toll.

Under the law, the state Supreme Court appoints a panel of judges and lawyers to study a case and agree on a compensation amount. The Legislature then must approve the payment.

The first Minnesotan to be approved for compensation was Koua Fong Lee of St. Paul, who was convicted of criminal vehicular homicide in 2006. He served nearly three years in prison before it was determined that Lee was not at fault in the fatal accident.

The Minnesota Innocence Project says 30 states have laws allowing compensation for those wrongly imprisoned.

Wisconsin currently limits that compensation to $5,000 for each year behind bars and total payouts are capped at $25,000.

The Associated Press reports that on Wednesday Wisconsin's Assembly voted 98-0 to approve a bill raising those limits to $50,000 a year and $1 million total. That bill now moves to the state Senate.


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