Patty Wetterling lost a son to the actions of a sex offender. But she now has misgivings about a sex offender registry she helped create.
Wetterling’s son Jacob was abducted and killed in 1989 in central Minnesota by an area man. After Jacob’s disappearance, Wetterling worked to establish a sex offender registry that would help flag offenders for law enforcement. (The man who 27 years later admitted to Jacob’s abduction and killing would not have actually been on such a registry because he’d never been charged or convicted of a sex crime.)
Wetterling and others are urging the Legislature to consider reforming the registry so it doesn’t cast such a wide net, snagging a high number of juvenile offenders, some who haven’t even had a conviction or had committed more minor offenses, such as public urination.
And getting off the list is difficult. Attorney Jim Fleming, a former chief public defender in Mankato who now works in Ramsey County, told the Star Tribune that a man in his 30s came to him because he was put on the registry as a 13-year-old. His 10-year period on the list restarted after a disorderly conduct charge, and then again after another unrelated charge. Fleming had to tell the man there was no way to appeal his time on the list.
The Legislature needs to review the registry and change it so that youth who don’t belong on the list stay off of it.