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Court affirms discharge from sex offender program

The Minnesota Court of Appeals on April 10 affirmed a decision to grant a man’s provisional discharge from the state’s treatment program for sex offenders, saying the program leader can’t unilaterally prevent his conditional release by refusing to approve a residential setting for him.

The decision comes in the case of Eugene Kropp, 74, who was committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, also known as MSOP, in 1998 after a history of molesting boys. Court records show Kropp engaged in criminal sexual conduct with nine children over 25 years, resulting in five convictions. He was committed as a sexually dangerous person and a sexual psychopathic personality.

Late last year, a judicial appeal panel granted Kropp’s request for a provisional discharge from MSOP over authorities’ objections. A plan for his conditional release said Kropp would live at a location approved by the MSOP executive director, and that his new environment would both meet his needs and keep the public safe.

The Department of Human Services appealed, arguing that Kropp’s provisional discharge plan required him to go to a place approved by the head of MSOP, but there was no place to send him since MSOP’s executive director didn’t believe Kropp’s provisional discharge was safe. The state argued Kropp was ordered released to a place that doesn’t exist.

In its April 10 ruling, the appeals court disagreed. It found that the judicial appeal panel has the authority to grant or deny a provisional discharge request — which it granted in this case — and MSOP’s executive director can’t unilaterally prevent it by refusing to approve placement.

The state has the option of appealing to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

“I remain opposed to the provisional discharge of this client,” Minnesota Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper said in a statement. “I am reviewing the ruling to consider our next steps.”

Kropp’s attorney, Ron Thorsett, said he believes his client will stay where he is until all appeals are exhausted.

A federal judge in 2015 found Minnesota’s secure treatment program for sex offenders to be unconstitutional, because only a handful of offenders had been granted provisional release in the program’s more-than-20 year history.

But the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision in January, finding the program constitutional. Attorneys for the more than 700 offenders in the program are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review it.

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