Minnesota changes sex offender policy

MINNEAPOLIS — Responding to the arrest of a convicted rapist in connection with a college student’s disappearance, the Minnesota Corrections Department has started sending prosecutors the names of sex offenders they might want to consider for commitment.

The action comes amid debate over the release from prison earlier this year of Alfonso Rodriguez Jr.

Rodriguez, who previously pleaded guilty to rape and was later convicted in another assault, is now charged with kidnapping 22-year-old Dru Sjodin last month from the parking lot of a Grand Forks, N.D., mall where she worked.

Sjodin remains missing, and authorities believe she is dead. Police have said her blood was found in Rodriguez’s car, and a knife in the trunk matched a sheath found near Sjodin’s car, left outside the mall the night she disappeared. Rodriguez has said through his attorney that he had nothing to do with her disappearance.

In the past week, the state Corrections Department has sent letters to 25 county attorneys with the names of about 200 Level 3 sex offenders, those considered most likely to re-offend. Of those names, 135 have already been released.

Rodriguez was labeled a Level 3 sex offender when he was released from prison in May after serving 23 years for attempted kidnapping and assault.

Corrections Commissioner Joan Fabian has said her department made a mistake in not referring Rodriguez for commitment. Sex offenders who are committed are sent indefinitely to state treatment facilities.

On Friday, Attorney General Mike Hatch also sent a letter to county prosecutors which spelled out procedures his office has developed to assist local prosecutors because of "the unprecedented nature" of a new Corrections Department policy.

Under the policy, which Hatch’s office has criticized, the Corrections Department no longer refers Level 3 sex offenders for possible commitment proceedings but instead sends the names of all such offenders to the counties.

Copyright ©2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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