Should sex offenders ever be released?To better understand why so few people have progressed in treatment through the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, the News Tribune interviewed seven clients who have been committed to MSOP in Moose Lake.
To better understand why so few people have progressed in treatment through the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, the News Tribune interviewed seven clients who have been committed to MSOP in Moose Lake.
All expressed scorn for the treatment that MSOP provides and said they believe they should be released, though they had little hope of that ever happening. Here are three of their stories:
Wayne Clements says he may be the only person committed to Moose Lake for misdemeanor crimes: six charges of indecent exposure and one of frotteurism — rubbing against an unsuspecting person for sexual gratification.
“I’ve never been charged with criminal sexual misconduct,” he said. “I’ve never had a felony sex offense. I’ve never been accused of one or arrested of any.”
Technically, he’s right. In the 1980s, when he was charged, his crimes didn’t fall under the definition of criminal sexual misconduct. But the reasons for his commitment, and why he’s been civilly committed for nearly 25 years, go beyond those convictions.
Records show that by the time Clements was 24, in 1984, he had been hospitalized several times for severe depression and self-destructive behavior. He told the people treating him that he heard voices talking to him in an accusing manner, and that he had disturbing thoughts about molesting 11- and 13-year-old girls. When he was admitted to a mental health center, he threatened to sexually assault female members of the staff.
He admitted to various treatment providers that he began exposing himself at age 10, made obscene phone calls at age 20 and supported himself as a prostitute from ages 19 to 22. He admitted to thinking about raping women, following one potential victim and hiding in women’s restrooms to surprise others.
“He admits that he likes to masturbate in front of women,” according to a report from his 1988 commitment record, “and doesn’t know any other way to communicate his feelings to them except by exposing himself.”
In 1986, he masturbated in front of his female neighbor. In 1987, he exposed himself to a woman at a park. That year he was sentenced to a workhouse, where he exposed himself to a female guard.
After he was released from the workhouse, in October 1987, dressed in only shoes and socks, he approached a woman in a parking ramp, masturbating, and asking her to help him. Later that month, he followed three girls for several blocks while exposing himself and masturbating.
Hennepin County petitioned the courts to civilly commit Clements on the grounds that he had a psychopathic personality and his “bad sexual behavior is escalating and with it the risk for serious sexual assault to a completely innocent victim.”
The court relied on the testimony of four sex offender experts to decide whether he should be committed. Three of them said they did not believe Clements fit the statutory definition of a psychopathic personality. The one who did, Dr. Roger C. Sweet, according to court records, acknowledged at the time he had “no specific training in the area of violent sexual offenders” and “no prior experience treating persons with psychopathic personalities.”
The court approved Clements’ commitment in 1988. When Moose Lake’s sex offender treatment center opened in 1996, he was transferred there.
Fifteen years later, Clements is still in the first stages of treatment and said unless the Legislature intervenes, he has no hope of ever being released.
Part of what’s held him back are the numerous crimes he’s been convicted of while at the facility, including four separate counts of terroristic threats and one count of second-degree assault for fighting a security counselor. For that, he served his first prison sentence.
He has assaulted security counselors five other times. In the last year, records show, Clements has been involved in numerous confrontations with MSOP security counselors.
Clements blamed the behavior on schizophrenia and anger at how he has been treated at Moose Lake.
“I believe that I needed to be punished for what I did, but the punishment should suit the crime. And I believe the state of Minnesota took 20 years of my life that they didn’t have coming,” Clements said. “If they would have incarcerated me for five years, I would consider that to be justice. But seeing as I never raped anybody, never molested any children, never attempted to rape nobody, never attempted to molest children, they took too many years of my life.”
Clements’ attorney, Terri Port Wright of Cloquet, said her client’s behavior should be viewed in the context of the setting at Moose Lake.
“We have to be smart enough to look at the circumstances,” she said. “Yes, he sucker-punched a guard. But what caused that scenario to happen? Is that scenario going to be present in the outside world? If he did it because he has problems controlling his anger, well then, give him anger management (therapy).”
Treatment or not, Clements said he should be released because he has proven he won’t reoffend sexually.
“I can sexually act out every day here,” said Clements. Records show that he last exposed himself at Moose Lake in 2003.
“My main acting out was indecent exposure,” he said. “Every day I have female security counselors look in my room. Every day. And if I want to expose myself, I could do it right then. And I’d get in less trouble here than I would in the streets, but I don’t do it because I no longer live with the desire, thank God.”
Ironically, Sweet, the man who helped commit Clements, also says Clements should be released.
“I don’t think it’s fair and reasonable to keep someone there that long,” he said.
Sweet said about eight to 10 years ago he worked to try to get Clements out of MSOP by trying to get him classified as mentally ill and dangerous rather than as a dangerous sex offender. He was unsuccessful.
He said he now regrets the recommendation to commit Clements.
“But who knew in 1989 that we would have this expensive sex offender program where nobody would ever get out?” he said.
Before Michael Mrozek was committed to Moose Lake last year, he said he had no idea the facility existed, let alone that no one had ever been discharged from treatment.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be released,” he said. “I try to keep hope that I’ll walk out of here. There’s one perk that the prisoners across the street get and we don’t, and that’s an out date.”
As a juvenile in foster homes, Mrozek, 25, molested eight children ranging in ages from 2 to 7, according to records, most of those in his foster families.
Like many clients at Moose Lake, Mrozek didn’t have a stable family growing up in the Crow Wing County area. His mother was deemed unfit to care for him.
And like many clients at Moose Lake, he was sexually and physically abused as a child. When he was 7 he was molested by a female family member, according to court records. When he was 16 and in foster care, his foster parents beat him with a wooden paddle until it broke, kicked him in the face and pulled on his ears until he bled after they found he had molested one of his sisters. His foster mother would regularly pour dish soap or vinegar into his mouth, causing him to vomit.
Though Mrozek said he “successfully” completed treatment as an adult, he later masturbated in front of two children, and “got another one to masturbate himself.”
In 2007, at age 21, he was caught looking at child pornography at the Central Lakes College library. He was put on probation and placed in outpatient sex offender treatment. But he missed too many group sessions, a violation of his probation, and was put in prison. Then Crow Wing County petitioned to have him committed to Moose Lake, where he has been since August 2010.
Last December, Mrozek was raped and beaten in his cell by his roommate, Brian Sorenson.
Moose Lake Police Chief Bryce Bogenholm called the attack one of the most violent incidents he’s encountered at the facility. Sorenson was sentenced to more than 17 years in prison.
Mrozek said he had told counselors that he felt uncomfortable sharing the room with Sorenson, but those concerns were ignored.
“They didn’t do anything,” he said. “They just left me in there.”
Mrozek’s allegations are similar to those of Philip Goldhammer, 35, who was raped in the facility in May 2009 by his then-roommate, William Cardwell. In a lawsuit he filed against MSOP in April, Goldhammer claims that he asked clinical staff to be moved to another room because he was afraid of Cardwell, but that request was refused, despite Cardwell telling staff that he was having sexual fantasies about Goldhammer.
The Minnesota Ombudsman investigated the case and found that, despite seven staff members being told that Goldhammer was in potential danger, there was no record they did anything to protect him, according to a report.
“Staff’s failure to act,” according to the report, “enabled (Cardwell) to accomplish his assault.”
Cardwell, who according to the lawsuit is about twice the size of Goldhammer, was sentenced to 9½ years in prison for the rape.
Goldhammer settled the lawsuit with the state for $130,000, according to the Star Tribune.
For Mrozek, considering what he’s done to children, why should anyone feel sympathy for what’s happened to him in Moose Lake?
“No one deserves to be raped,” he said. “And I feel really bad for what I did to my victims. There’s not a day that goes by that I wish I could … go back in time and stop that from happening so they wouldn’t have to suffer.”
But if he had never committed those offenses, he said, “there wouldn’t be people I’ve met who have been positive influences on my life.”
If he is ever released, how can people believe he wouldn’t reoffend?
“I can’t imagine what they’ve had to go through,” he said of his victims. “I honestly can’t. I don’t want to hurt anybody anymore. It’s not who I am.
“Who I was 10, 12 years ago is not who I am today,” he said.
Jeffrey Nelson said at one point in his life he “made a career” out of “fantasizing about molesting children.”
“Which, unfortunately, leads to molesting children,” he said.
From age 12 to 27, he estimates that he molested 36 children, until he was caught in 1991 attempting to break into a home, where he planned to kidnap a boy and molest him.
He was incarcerated that year and, after his release from prison, was civilly committed in 1996 to MSOP in Moose Lake.
Nelson said he’s been as high as Phase Three of the four-phase treatment program before dropping back down. Other than a few tools “that have been helpful,” he said, the treatment is “pretty useless.”
“The main reason for that is I’ve been here for nearly 15 years, and I’m still in Phase One of the program,” he said. “It appears their real motivation is to keep us here as long as possible.”
Still, the 47-year-old said he no longer has fantasies about molesting children and believes he should be released.
“In five to 10 years I would love to be out on the streets operating my own business and taking care of whatever family I have left,” he said.
How can the public be sure he won’t reoffend?
“I don’t know how to answer that,” he said. “I’ve been saying that for 20 years, that I deserved another chance.”
Nelson won’t be released anytime soon and is now back in prison. He recently pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault for spitting on a MSOP security counselor in a case that his attorney, Terri Port Wright, said shows what’s wrong with the MSOP system.
According to records, Nelson was in his room when he flipped off a security counselor who walked by. The counselor saw it and, following MSOP policy, Nelson was transferred to a higher-security area. That required searching Nelson and taking off his socks. Nelson, who has been mostly confined to a wheelchair for three years by diabetes and a deformity developed in his legs, said that would have been agonizingly painful.
When one of the staff bent down to take his socks off, he spit at him.
“It’s questionable whether or not the spit actually hit (the staff member), but it’s clear from the video he did spit at him,” Port Wright said. “He felt like spitting was a last resort to stop the interaction.”
The spit is what led to the assault charge.
Nelson said his temper got the better of him.
“I got rather mad, and when I get mad, unfortunately, my mouth tends to run before I think about what I’m saying,” he said, “and I get a little verbally abusive.”
Nelson will serve a year in prison before he goes back to Moose Lake, where he’ll start his treatment over from the beginning.