Once again, one man has become the center of a legal firestorm over the constitutionality of Minnesota's sex offender treatment program, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribuen. On Wednesday, a federal judge ordered the state to conduct an accelerated review of Eric Terhaar, 24, who was committed to state custody as a sex offender in 2009 — even though his offenses occurred before he turned 15 and he has never been convicted of a crime as an adult.
A panel of court-appointed experts has recommended that Terhaar be unconditionally released from the Minnesota Sex Offender Program. But state officials oppose Terhaar's release, prompting U.S. Judge Donovan Frank to insist that the agency accelerate the case while expressing his own puzzlement at the conflicting opinions among state experts. The case has become the latest flash point in a prolonged debate over whether Minnesota is violating the Constitution by locking away sex offenders indefinitely — in many cases, after they have completed their prison sentences. At stake is the future of many of the roughly 690 people confined at sex offender treatment centers in Minnesota, including 52 men with no criminal histories.