WELCOME - About 30 people turned out Monday for a community notification meeting about a level three predatory offender living in Welcome.
Earic Johnson, 47, now resides at Elm Tree Trailer Court.
"We are not here to debate this; it's happening; it is what it is," said Sherburn/Welcome Police Chief Brad Hughes.
"It does invoke concerns and raises questions," said Michele Murphy of the Minnesota Department of Corrections. "But sex offenders have always been among us. We've only been able to know about it for a short amount of time, since the community notification law took effect in January 1997."
Only offenders who have served prison sentences receive a risk level assignment of one to three. A community is only informed of level three offenders, or those determined to be at a higher risk of re-offense.
"We don't say the highest risk, because you never know how someone will reintegrate into the community," Murphy said.
Of 16,500 registered predatory offenders in Minnesota, about 13 percent are assigned a level-three status.
"You have three offenders in Welcome, and there are 88 in Martin County," Murphy said. "Minnesota is progressive as to how we handle sex offenders. We have treatment options, from offender treatment to chemical dependency treatment. There are chances to rehabilitate."
There are not restrictions as to where an offender can live.
Unlike Iowa, which prohibits offenders living within 2,500 feet of schools, parks, or daycares, there are no such restrictions in Minnesota.
"All he has to do is let us know when he moves," Hughes said.
"Mr. Johnson has lived in your community before," Murphy told the group. "But now he is a level three."
Johnson is not on probation, and does not face any restrictions except for registering with police and not being allowed to possess a firearm.
His crimes include criminal sexual conduct in 1988 and in 1994, which were forced rapes against a 17-year-old girl in Hennepin County and a young woman in Martin County.
Sentencing guidelines in Minnesota usually involve a convicted person serving two-thirds of a sentence, with the remaining third on supervised release. Information given at the meeting indicates Johnson violated his probation four times, and ultimately served his entire prison sentence.
He was released in November and lived in Fairmont until Monday. Johnson is required to register as a predatory offender until November 2020.
"The registration has some teeth, and county attorneys are aggressive when an offender fails to register," Murphy said. "Failing to register results in new felony charges and a longer period that they will have to register as an offender."
Information required includes primary and secondary addresses, any vehicles the offender uses, current photos and any place the offender works or goes to school. A DNA sample is also on file.
However, while authorities have this information, it is not available to the public.
If an offender moves, he must inform law enforcement at least five days in advance, if feasible.
Detective Eric Tonder of the Fairmont Police Department told the crowd that Johnson has so far been cooperative in his registration.
"I'm not here to vouch for the guy, but he voluntarily came in to inform us of this move. He's always filled out all his paperwork, has been polite and doesn't want any trouble," Tonder said. "I don't believe there will be any trouble of harassment from him."
But harassment toward him could be a problem, if the community notification is abused.
"Any harassment of Johnson will be investigated," Hughes noted.
"He wants the same thing that all of us want," Tonder said. "He doesn't want to get yelled at; he doesn't want his car vandalized."
"We're making sure the (offenders) in town are following the rules they need to follow, but we're not constantly going up and down their road," Hughes said when some if there will be more aggressive patrolling in the area. "We don't have specific routes we follow; it is at the discretion of the officers."
The mood following the meeting seemed to be one of reluctant acceptance.
"I will always be apprehensive, because that trailer court is at the edge of my backyard and I have a 16-year-old daughter," said one woman, who asked that her name not be made public. "Being unsupervised, it's very unnerving."
"I thought the meeting was very informative, I appreciated the information regarding the levels and the reintegrating into society," said Lynda Stauter. "I thought they were on constant probation all the time, so I was surprised [they are not] and I find that kind of scary. But it's good to have more public knowledge and community awareness.