State won't appeal first ever full release from Minnesota Sex Offender Program


The state of Minnesota has decided against appealing a ruling that will see the first ever total discharge from the controversial Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP).

Commissioner Emily Johnson Piper, through a Department of Human Services spokesperson, confirmed to BringMeTheNews she will not appeal the discharge of 26-year-old Eric Terhaar, which was upheld last month by the Minnesota Supreme Court.

The reason for this, she says, is that it could set an unwanted precedent that could undermine the future of MSOP, which she sees as "critical to public safety."

"Until now, I have actively opposed the release of this Minnesota Sex Offender Program client," she said. "I had to weigh the risk that an unsuccessful appeal may set a precedent that could undermine the commitments of other clients.

"My recent appeal in another case was denied by the court. Continuing to have a strong program is critical to public safety."

The other case she is referring to is the provisional discharge of MSOP offender Christopher Coker, with Piper's appeal failing despite what she says was "unanimous testimony from experts against his release."

Terhaar is among the 700-plus "civilly committed" people in MSOP, who are essentially locked up at one of two high-security facilities (in Moose Lake or St. Peter) for an indefinite period of time.

The future of MSOP in its current form is under question, with a federal judge demanding immediate changes to the program after ruling it "unconstitutional" for effectively keeping offenders confined after they served their prison sentence, with no prospect of ever being released.

Terhaar will become the first offender to ever be released from the program without being subjected to intrusive levels of supervision in the community, or without being first released to a halfway house, the Star Tribune notes.

He entered MSOP six years ago at the age of 19, having first entering a "secure" facility at the age of 14 after a turbulent childhood that saw him sexually abused multiple times in a juvenile facility in California. But he also reported sexually abusing some of his developmentally disabled siblings.

The Supreme Court ruling (which you can read in full here) says Terhaar isn’t a danger to the public, and doesn’t need the type of treatment or supervision the MSOP provides.

Expert testimony has noted Terhaar does not have a sexual disorder, which means the chance he re-offends is lower. He’s also gone out into the community without incident, and visits to his father’s home have been called productive.

Next Up

Screen Shot 2021-06-20 at 9.21.00 AM

Updates on Minnesotans bidding for spots at the Summer Olympics

St. Paul's Suni Lee could qualify for the U.S. gymnastics team this week.

golf cart

Federal charges: Minnesota man stole 63 golf carts in 7 states

Nathan Rodney Nelson has been federally charged with transportation of stolen vehicles across state lines.

Screen Shot 2020-06-15 at 7.11.05 AM

1 dead, 1 wounded in separate St. Cloud shootings

It was one of two shootings that happened overnight in the city.

Byron Buxton

Buxton, Kepler lead Twins to weekend sweep over Rangers

Kenta Maeda's solid outing on the mound gave the Twins a 4-2 victory.

storm, severe weather

Severe thunderstorm watch issued for south Minnesota, tornadoes possible

The watch area is just to the south of the Twin Cities.


10 injured when minivans collide, overturn in west-central Minnesota

The incident occurred at the intersection of County Road 1 and County Road 29 in Kandiyohi County.

William Carlson

Nearly 80 years later, Minnesotan honored for WWII heroism

He defended a sinking passenger ship from a U-boat.

ambulance, crash

Pedestrian fatally struck by driver in Brooklyn Park

The identity of the victim has not been released.

storm, severe weather, shelf cloud

Some storms could pack a punch Sunday afternoon

Widespread severe weather is not expected, but some storms could get feisty.


Minnesota sex-offender program releasing its first convicted pedophile

Clarence Opheim will be freed to a Minneapolis halfway-house after 19 years in the sex-offender program. The Star Tribune reports the 64-year-old is the first patient to be released since the program started in 1994. Opheim was convicted in the late 1980s of criminal sexual assault of a teenage boy. His whereabouts will still be monitored with an electronic ankle-bracelet.