MINNEAPOLIS - A national organization dedicated to protecting children from sexual violence has issued a blistering report calling for criminal justice reform in Minnesota.
The National Association to Protect Children (PROTECT) says it found an “alarming” pattern of sentencing involving sexual crimes against children.
The group analyzed 14 years of sentencing data for those crimes and discovered that Minnesota judges allow probation and short local jail stays instead of state prison 65 percent of the time.
“We know of no other state in the union with sentencing as weak as Minnesota’s for child sexual exploitation,” the organization wrote in a report they call, “Dangerous State of Justice.”
The case of Adam Jo Klimek, 31, illustrates the problem. Klimek was shot to death by Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) agents on August 2, 2016 when officials say he lunged at them with a knife during an undercover human trafficking sting.
Authorities say Klimek showed up at an Alexandria, Minnesota home expecting to meet a 14-year-old girl for sex.
The situation took a deadly turn when Klimek learned there was no girl, only law enforcement.
But court records reviewed by KARE 11 show that Klimek was already on probation for an earlier conviction for attempting to have sex with a child.
In 2013, Klimek purchased a 12-year-old girl off of Craigslist and sexually assaulted her, according to court records. The girl had been kidnapped from a fast food restaurant in Rochester by notorious sex trafficker Lee Andrew Paul.
Authorities say the 12-year-old girl and a 16-year-old friend were lured to the parking lot of a McDonalds in Rochester. They were told they were going to a party. Instead, Paul kidnapped them and brought them to the Twin Cities, where he sexually assaulted the girls and sold them for sex.
Klimek was a paying customer, according to court documents.
Paul was convicted in federal court and sentenced to 30 years in prison. But Klimek was charged under Minnesota law and all but walked free.
In a plea deal with Olmsted County prosecutors, he admitted he molested the young girl. He served 90 days in jail on work release and was placed on probation.
“You’re taking very dangerous predators and you’re letting them off with very lenient sentences, sometimes no jail time or prison time at all,” said Camille Cooper, the Director of Legislative Affairs for the National Association to Protect Children (PROTECT).
PROTECT analyzed 6,231 cases from 2001 to 2014 and found probation or very short local jail sentences are common in Minnesota for child rape and sexual violence.
They discovered that judges hand down stayed sentences – meaning no state prison – 65 percent of the time overall and 27 percent of the time for 1st Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct, the most serious charge.
“And they’re going back out onto the street where they’re going to be a little more savvy,” said Cooper. “They’ve learned a little bit about how not to get caught, and they’re going to continue to offend.”
That was certainly the case with Adam Klimek who was charged with 1st Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct before receiving his plea deal.
PROTECT’s report provides detailed sentencing patterns for Minnesota judges, showcasing how often they sentence child predators to probation instead of state prison.
Their findings show “some Minnesota judges are doing far better at sending sexual predators to prison than their colleagues are. Others are awarding sexual predators with probation and returning them to communities as a routine practice.”