ST. PAUL, Minn. - “Enough is enough, it’s time to start stopping this!” said State Representative Matt Grossell (R - Beltrami)
Grossell is the chief author of a sweeping bill he calls a first step in reforming Minnesota’s sex crime sentencing laws which critics have labeled some of the weakest in the nation.
Grossell, a former law enforcement officer, said he watched KARE 11’s report on how a type of plea deal known as a Stay of Adjudication allowed hundreds of child sexual predators in Minnesota to have their crimes masked by the legal system.
“This is wrong to me! That’s just wrong!” he added, “So we decided to eliminate the stays of adjudication and imposition.”
Stays of imposition result in a felony charge being reduced to a misdemeanor if the defendant successfully completes probation. Stays of Adjudication disappear completely and the entire time the defendant is on probation the case is listed as pending. That means there’s no record of it on the Minnesota Court system’s online database.
“When young children are victimized like that, that tears me apart,” said Grossell, with tears in his eyes. He apologized for being emotional, adding “and to think that that person won’t be held accountable the way they should be, makes it even worse. You can never give that child back the innocence that they had, but you can keep that person from hurting somebody else.”
Governor Mark Dayton also called for reform following KARE 11’s reporting.
“Innocent people need to know that there are people around them who have a history of sexual abuse, and we need to protect the public first and foremost,” said Dayton.
The proposed changes also increase the penalties for child pornography, and orders the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission to toughen up recommended penalties for sex crimes. It also calls for more intensive probation for certain sex offenders.
Robert Small with the Minnesota County Attorneys Association said he had not had a chance to read the bill in its entirety, but said prosecutors in his association had concerns that the bill goes too far. He likened it to “using an axe where a scalpel is needed.”
Grossell contends, “it’s time for the hatchet and not the scalpel.”
A hearing on the proposed changes has not yet been scheduled.