Sex offender to move into group home

Published 10:00 am Monday, December 8, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS — A southern Minnesota man who has spent more than two decades in the state’s treatment program for sex offenders is expected to move into a group home in Le Center later this month, after a state Supreme Court appeal panel granted him a provisional discharge.

According to court documents obtained Friday, the judicial panel ruled Nov. 12 that Robert Jeno, 50, had no further need for treatment and supervision through the Minnesota Sex Offender Program. The panel ordered his release, with provisions, and approved a plan that includes several conditions to protect the public, including placing Jeno on constant GPS monitoring and placing alarms on his windows.

“From MSOP’s perspective, Appellant has completed sex offender treatment. All that remains is maintenance and management of his mental illness,” the order reads.

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Le Center Police Chief Bob Pfarr said in a statement provided Friday that Jeno would be released “later this month.” A community notification meeting is scheduled for Dec. 16.

Attorneys said he will live at Shiloh’s Hope Inc. in Le Center. Staff answering the phone at the home Friday had no comment.

The state sex offender program is subject of a class-action lawsuit filed by residents who allege it’s unconstitutional because it keeps them locked up indefinitely without adequate treatment. More than 700 people deemed sexually dangerous or sexual psychopaths have been committed to high-security facilities in Moose Lake or St. Peter after their prison terms were completed.

Only one other resident has been successfully released, with provisions, since 1994.

Jeno’s attorney, Stephen Ecker, said his client “is looking forward to transitioning back into the community.”

According to court documents, Jeno’s sex offenses started when he was 15 or 16 years old. His offenses include a sexual assault on a girlfriend, which he was convicted of in June 1982. Two other incidents for which he was convicted — physically and sexually assaulting another woman whom he grabbed as she was walking across a bridge and assaulting his sister’s boyfriend with a knife — occurred while he was on probation.

Jeno was sent back to prison and committed as a psychopathic personality in 1992. He petitioned for a provisional discharge from MSOP in April 2013, and a special review board that considers such requests recommended it.

Last fall, Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson said she did not oppose Jeno’s provisional discharge. But after a forensic examination outlined several public safety recommendations, Jesson changed her mind and opposed it until a hearing could establish that the recommendations would be addressed.

At a hearing in July, neither the Rice County Attorney’s Office nor DHS presented evidence opposing Jeno’s discharge.

Jesson said in a statement Friday that public safety is a priority.

“When this client is transferred to a new setting, he will continue to be supervised by MSOP through measures including face-to-face visits, GPS monitoring and random surveillance to protect public safety,” Jesson said, adding that a violation of any provisions could get him sent back to MSOP.

Meredith Erickson, chief deputy Rice County attorney, said the county initially objected to Jeno’s release, but that a supplemental evaluation satisfied concerns about security and continued treatment.

Jeno has gone on community outings in recent years without incident.