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Rydberg v. Goodno

December 7, 2004

JOHN H. RYDBERG, RESPONDENT,
v.
KEVIN GOODNO, COMMISSIONER OF HUMAN SERVICES, APPELLANT.



Judicial Appeal Panel File No. AP04-9019.

Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge; Peterson, Judge; and Klaphake, Judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. When one committed as a psychopathic personality meets his burden of showing that he has met the standards for pass-eligible status, the Commissioner of Human Services then has the burden of showing by clear and convincing evidence that he should not be granted pass-eligible status.

2. Findings by the judicial appeal panel will be affirmed if supported by substantial evidence in the record.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Toussaint, Chief Judge

Affirmed

OPINION

This is an appeal by the Commissioner of Human Services from a judicial appeal panel decision, which granted pass-eligible status to respondent John H. Rydberg, who is subject to an indeterminate commitment as a psychopathic personality. The commissioner contends that the judicial appeal panel erred as a matter of law (1) in requiring the commissioner to show by clear and convincing evidence that Rydberg should not be granted pass-eligible status after Rydberg established a prima facie case for being placed on pass-eligible status; and (2) in granting Rydberg pass-eligible status. Because the appeal panel did not err in its burden of proof determination and because the evidence supports the decision, we affirm.

FACTS

Respondent John Rydberg has a long history of engaging in violent sexual assaults. In 1969, he was convicted of attempted rape. In 1975, he was convicted of forced penile-oral penetration. In 1976, following two violent sexual assaults committed at gunpoint, he was convicted of rape, attempted rape, sexual perversion, and operating a motor vehicle without the owner's consent.

Rydberg was then committed to a sex offender treatment program in Wisconsin. He escaped in 1977 and in 1979. During the latter escape, he sexually assaulted a woman in Blue Earth County at knifepoint in the presence of her three children. He cut her thighs and clothes with the knife, threatened her and her children, and tried to strangle her. Rydberg was subsequently convicted of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and aggravated robbery.

In 1993, following his incarceration, Rydberg was committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) as a psychopathic personality for an indeterminate period of time. Although Rydberg initially refused to participate in treatment, he began to do so in 1998. During treatment, Rydberg self-reported dozens of additional rapes and sexual assaults. He then successfully completed a four-phase inpatient sex offender treatment program at MSOP's Moose Lake facility. On July 22, 2002, Rydberg was transferred to MSOP's St. Peter facility to begin the "transition phase" of his treatment.

When Rydberg arrived at St. Peter, he was initially escorted and observed by staff while he was working, but he was later allowed to engage in unsupervised activities on the grounds and at work. Additionally, Rydberg was allowed to go off campus on supervised trips. All of these activities took place without incident. Rydberg is currently working 33 hours a week, has groups twice a week for an hour and a half, and keeps daily logs of his activities to provide accountability. He believes the treatment program and relapse-prevention programs will be with him for life.

As part of his treatment, Rydberg prepared an eight-page proposed pass plan. Because he met the expectations of the transition-phase program and was adjusting well, in May 2003, the clinical director of MSOP notified the appropriate persons of her intent to grant Rydberg pass-eligible status. Following this notification, the Blue Earth County Sheriff's Department objected, as did the victim of Rydberg's last offense, and the issue came before the special review board. ...


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