Wife of inmate at center of controversy speaks

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 25, 2006

By Tim Engstrom and Rebecca Houg, staff writers

Sharon Colstrup said she wishes statements said about her in court Thursday weren&8217;t made.

She is the wife of James Colstrup, who is serving a 180-day sentence in the Freeborn County Jail for domestic violence. He has been in the middle of a high-profile policy disagreement on temporary release of prisoners.

Though what Andrea Hall, Freeborn County Court Services probation officer, told the court &8212; &8220;He has threatened to kill his wife on numerous occasions&8221; &8212; is true, Hall regrets making the statement.

&8220;I regret that&8217;s one of the things I was quoted on in the paper. It came from a police report that was public record,&8221; Hall said.

Sharon Colstrup said she felt the case was a family court matter.

&8220;If she was an advocate at all she would have called me and asked me how I felt,&8221; she said.

Hall said it&8217;s been long held that issues like domestic violence are family issues, but they are not.

&8220;It is a family issue, but it is also a crime issue and crimes have an effect on the public. Look at

how much the (Robert Michael) Hughes&8217; trial has cost the county,&8221; Hall said.

Hughes last week was convicted of the murder of his wife and sentenced to life in prison. Hughes killed his wife on May 25, 2005, in their home on Sheridan Street in Albert Lea.

Sharon Colstrup said she appreciated the judge granted her husband a work release, which will help them make a living.

She said James has belonged to the Masons for years and is a major volunteer, especially at the pancake breakfasts. He attended a pancake breakfast Oct. 8.

&8220;He buys the groceries. He makes the pancakes. He buys the syrup,&8221; she said. &8220;As a Mason he&8217;s a very good person.&8221;

Sharon Colstrup said she understands why people are upset about Sheriff Mark Harig taking James Colstrup to Masonic meetings and sees why people think it is favoritism.

&8220;It certainly wasn&8217;t meant to be put out that way,&8221; she said. &8220;I didn&8217;t feel like he was going there having fun.&8221;

She said the sheriff was only trying to help her husband.

&8220;I think it is unfortunate the question of favoritism had to bring to light the fact my husband was in jail for domestic violence,&8221; Sharon Colstrup said.

Harig said there was no safety issue. He said James Colstrup was in his custody. The sheriff said he and James Colstrup are not friends.

&8220;Why him?&8221; Hall said. &8220;How many others that are in jail that need that kind of influence? But, why him?&8221;

&8220;The strongest statement the sheriff could have said and had the biggest influence on him was to say, as a sheriff or as a friend is, &8216;Your behaviors are not OK&8217;,&8221; Hall said.

Sharon Colstrup said she feels sorry for Colstrup relatives who she said probably have had to deal with phone calls and questions. She said she understands the newspaper is merely the messenger of public information, noting that she and her husband were trying to put their past behind them when his case became front-page news.

&8220;It seemed to shove it right back in our face. It seemed like he was being convicted all over again, even though he is serving his time,&8221; she said.

Sharon Colstrup said she hopes their case will clarify county policies on the release of inmates so the same events won&8217;t happen to another family.

Hall also said she hopes there are positive after-effects from this incident.

&8220;If nothing else, this will create a better working environment in regards to domestic violence issues,&8221; Hall said. &8220;We&8217;ve really worked to address domestic violence issues. The system needs

to be consistent and it needs to work together,&8221; Hall said.