Dayton administration blasts Kurt Zellers over sex offender controversy

The Dayton administration isn't happy with Zellers's effort to blame them for a sex offender's possible release.
The Dayton administration isn't happy with Zellers's effort to blame them for a sex offender's possible release.

As we covered earlier this week (link directly below), the possible release of serial rapist Thomas Duvall from the state's sex offender facility in Moose Lake is a highly controversial issue.

THE BACKSTORY: Mark Dayton, Lori Swanson disagree about whether serial rapist should be released

On one hand, Duvall served his time, has been recommended for release by the Department of Human Services, and you can't keep him locked up forever, right? But on the other, Duvall's criminal history and treatment reports written as recently as last year suggest he's a high risk to offend again.

Governor Dayton is inclined to go along with the DHS's recommendation, while Attorney General Lori Swanson reportedly will try to block Duvall's release during a hearing happening today.

Adding fuel to the fire was a letter written by Rep. Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, and sent to a court clerk yesterday. In it, Zellers  -- a 2014 gubernatorial candidate -- writes that he supports Swanson's position and is "concerned by comments made publicly that Duvall's release is a 'done deal' and is imminent."

Here's the whole thing:


Zellers turned his fire toward Dayton earlier today, telling reporters, "One of the hockey moms said to me at practice on Sunday, 'Why the hell would the governor let this guy out?' And that's the problem," the Star Tribune reports.

But Zellers's attempt to pin responsibility for Duvall's possible release on the governor didn't sit well with Dayton Deputy Chief of Staff Bob Hume, who released a statement a short time ago blasting Zellers for using the situation to try to score political points after not doing anything in the Legislature to change the laws mandating Duvall's release. Here's what Hume had to say:

Governor Dayton and his
administration are responsible for carrying out the laws established by the Minnesota legislature regarding the treatment of convicted sexual offenders. Former Speaker Zellers is wrong in implying that the Governor or other administration officials have the authority to incarcerate such offenders for life. The length of a criminal sentence is recommended by the prosecuting County Attorney and decided by the presiding Judge, after review of applicable statutes and the facts of that case. Rep. Zellers could have proposed changing those statutes, while he was Speaker of the House in 2011 and 2012, if he thought they were inadequate; however, he did not do so.

Current Minnesota law also provides that a sexual offender may be determined to be a "sexually dangerous individual," as
defined by statute, and committed by a court to an indeterminate period of treatment, following the completion of his criminal sentence. The law also specifies procedures and criteria for the consideration of his eventual release into a controlled and carefully supervised setting. This law and its procedures were also left untouched by then-Speaker Zellers. In fact, after both DFL and Republican Senators voted last spring to make changes recommended by an expert panel, and the House DFL Caucus indicated its willingness to proceed with bi-
partisan support, Rep. Zellers' Republican Caucus
adamantly refused to support any of those changes.

Rep. Zellers' letter to the Attorney General is also seriously incorrect in claiming that Mr. "Duvall's release is a 'done deal' and is imminent despite these concerns."
Despite the Human
Services Commissioner's decision to not oppose this provisional
release recommendation, the decision to provisionally discharge Mr. Duvall is made by a three-judge panel appointed by the Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. The Commissioner has also recommended to the court that Mr. Duvall be re-evaluated by an additional outside medical expert to obtain the most current assessment before the court issues its decision. That re-evaluation is now scheduled for January of
next year. There is nothing "imminent" in this process.

The Governor has already committed his administration to
conduct a full review of all the existing laws and procedures regarding sex offenders and make its recommendations to the

legislature before next year's session.
He urges Rep. Zellers to finally do what he neglected to do as Speaker: pitch in and help
find a better solution to this extremely difficult problem.

Along the same lines, Zellers offered up this tweet this afternoon without a hint of irony:

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at [email protected]

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