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Ruling in sex offender case is likely still months down road

MONTEVIDEO -- Final legal arguments will be presented in the next two months before a ruling is issued on whether or not to indefinitely commit Steven Allen Housman, 54, of Montevideo, to the state's criminal sexual treatment program in St. Peter.

Housman, who is classified by the Minnesota Department of Corrections as a level III sex offender, was only hours from being released from the Chippewa County Jail on Jan. 6 when the Sheriff's Office received an order to transfer him to the Minnesota sexual offenders program at St. Peter.

Housman remains in St. Peter, where he was returned after a two-day trial in Chippewa County on March 24 and 25.

Housman has served his 58-month prison sentence for a second-degree criminal sexual conduct conviction for offenses against a 7-year-old female. Authorities in Chippewa County believe that if Housman is not committed, he will return to a rural Montevideo residence he formerly occupied. His alleged victims remain in the area.

District Judge Paul Nelson heard testimony in the case, and instructed attorneys to provide written arguments in May. He allowed for final responses in June.

He will issue a ruling on a state petition for his civil commitment within 90 days of receiving the responses.

Chippewa County Attorney Dwayne Knutsen said that the judge's role in the matter is limited to determining whether or not to approve the civil commitment. If he rules there is not sufficient grounds for the commitment, Housman would be released and a sexual notification meeting held in Montevideo.

State law allows for a civil commitment if an individual is determined to have a sexual psychopathic personality, or is a sexually dangerous person likely to engage in harmful behaviors against others. It requires the state to show evidence of habitual sexual misconduct, an utter lack of ability to control sexual impulses, and the likelihood of continuing to inflict harm on others.

Chippewa County is responsible for the full costs of Housman's commitment to the sexual offender program pending the result of the civil commitment trial. Those costs are estimated to be in the range of $10,000 a month, according to the county attorney. If a civil commitment is approved, the county remains responsible for 10 percent of the costs on an ongoing basis.

A level III sex offender is someone assessed as having a high risk of re-offending. Housman has served a total of 12 years in prison, including time for a previous criminal sexual conduct conviction and for having violated terms of his probation.