March 25, 2015

County moving forward with predatory offender ordinance

3-25-15 Minnesota:

The Chisago County Board of Commissioners doesn’t have a concrete plan yet about how it’s going to address the residency of predatory offenders in the county, but commissioners agreed March 18 that the state should be involved in the process.

After about 45 minutes of discussion, the board decided to have county staff begin working on a draft ordinance that would restrict where predatory offenders can live in Chisago County.

As part of that motion, which was approved unanimously, Commissioner George McMahon said the board should work with Sen. Leroy Stumpf, DFL, District 1. McMahon said Stumpf and his staff are drafting legislation this session that deals with sex offenders.

Before the board voted on that motion, County Attorney Janet Reiter spoke to the board about her recent research.

Reiter said the interest in having a countywide ordinance stemmed from the release of Thomas Stanton, a Level 3 predatory offender who raped and severely beat a woman in the Stacy area more than two decades ago. He served about 20 years in prison for the crime.

Stanton lived at a residence off Lang Avenue and Lincoln Road for less than a week last month before he violated terms of his release — having access to an Internet-capable device and failure to inform his agent of his activities. He was sentenced to a year in the Rush City Prison for those violations.

Another man living at the residence with Stanton, Leonard Oliver, a Level 2 predatory offender, vandalized a neighbor’s sign that read, “Sex offenders live here,” with an arrow pointing to the residence. He was also arrested.

Even though those two men are back in custody, residents in the community want action taken, and they came before the board at its March 4 meeting to express their concerns.

Reiter researched proximity laws between the March 4 and March 18 board meetings. She noted that those types of laws allow local units of government to prohibit people with predatory offenses on their records from living within certain distances of places like schools, parks and licensed day care facilities.

She added that empirical data shows the laws aren’t particularly effective.

She said a 2005 ruling in an Iowa case supports the constitutionally of proximity laws.

However, she said those laws have to be narrowly tailored.

Reiter noted the California Supreme Court at the beginning this month struck down a San Diego County ordinance that limited where sex offenders could live in that county. She described that law as a “blanket ordinance.”

“It limited their residency as such that it inhibited their ability to find housing, find drug or alcohol treatment or other services that might help them maintain their stability,” she said.
Chisago County Sheriff Rick Duncan told the board he understands nobody wants a convicted sex offender living near them, but they have to live somewhere after they’ve served their time.

“Nobody wants them in their community,” he said. “However, that’s the society we live in.

Felons get released from prison all the time, and we don’t even have to notify the community that these people are living here.”

But Duncan added that someone should look into making a law that would prohibit a predatory offender from living in the county in which they offended.

“Why are we placing Level 3 sex offenders who have committed in a county back in that same county?” he asked. “That stirs the population even more because they went through the process of what this person did. It’s not fair for the violator — they don’t have a fighting chance to live in the community, even if they wanted to change. And it’s not fair to the victim because they have to relive the whole process over again.”

Commissioner Ben Montzka said even if proximity laws aren’t very effective, the county should do something.

“We have a duty to try and protect, but I think we should do it wisely,” he said. “If we do nothing, we’re encouraging offenders to live in our unincorporated areas.”

Commissioner Mike Robinson asked Reiter what would happen if the board enacted an overly broad ordinance that limited the residency of predatory offenders in the county.

She said that the ordinance could eventually be struck down, and the county might have to foot the bill for court costs associated with defending the ordinance.

She also noted there could also be the possibility of someone representing an offender suing the county for punitive damages.

Even with that explanation from Reiter, Robinson said he thought the county should have a strong ordinance.

“I think we should make a real tough ordinance because it will probably take about two years for the state to do anything about it,” he said. “For those two years, maybe none of our people will get attacked.” ..Source.. by Derrick Knutson

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