A convicted sex offender’s release in Dunn County is rousing criticism from the town where he was placed to live.
The town of Otter Creek is asking to be included in court hearings involving the placement of Jamie L. Stephenson, 34, at an Otter Creek property.
Stephenson will live at a N11311 570th St., Wheeler house on supervised release, the Dunn County Sheriff’s Office announced in December. Stephenson would be monitored with GPS systems and must register as a lifetime sex offender.
In 2004 Stephenson was sentenced to two years of probation for fourth-degree sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl in Pierce County.
In 2006 he was sentenced to 25 years of probation in a Minnesota case for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl, according to court records.
In 2007 Stephenson, then 22, sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl and a 16-year-old girl at a home in Boyceville, according to court records. He was sentenced to two years in prison and four years of extended supervision.
Stephenson was then committed under Wisconsin’s Chapter 980 program, which lets the state commit and treat a sexually violent person after the offender serves a sentence.
County placement under question
The town of Otter Creek’s attorney, Kathleen Avoles of Bakke Norman Law Offices, asked Dunn County Judge Rod Smeltzer in November to let the town to participate in Stephenson’s case.
Otter Creek town chairman Mark Warner filed a statement in December criticizing the placement process and Stephenson’s would-be property.
The Otter Creek house where Stephenson would be placed is in poor condition and “may be uninhabitable due to an inadequate and possibly illegal septic system, poor water quality, mold and possibly the structural integrity of the building itself,” Warner said in a Dec. 27 statement.
Three children also live in a house 750 feet from the property, Warner said. The two properties are separated by a 33-foot-wide access driveway.
Sexually violent people must live at least 1,500 feet from schools, childcare facilities, parks, youth centers or churches, according to Wisconsin state statute. If the person is a serious child sex offender, the same rule applies to residences with children.
The town also did not receive notice of a meeting of Dunn County’s Temporary 980 Committee, which decides where to place released sex offenders, Warner said.
The Dunn County Board voted to form a Temporary 980 Committee in June 2018 after Wisconsin Act 184 was passed. The law dictates that sexually violent people must be placed in their home county after release, and a local committee must be formed to find a suitable property.
The Dunn County Temporary 98) Committee includes a probation or parole officer and directors or representatives from the Dunn County Department of Human Services, Wisconsin Department of Health Services and county corporation counsel.
The Dunn County Sheriff can also choose a representative to assist the committee.
Chairman: Not enough notice of meeting
Warner said the committee “failed to provide the public with any real opportunity to know what this governmental committee was doing.
“It made no mention that the purpose was to place a sexually violent person anywhere,” Warner said in his statement.
Facts about the Otter Creek property — and about the possibility of children living next door — were “either unknown to the committee, or ignored or glossed over,” Avoles said.
Stephenson’s attorney Charles Glynn criticized the town’s intervention at a Dunn County court hearing Thursday.
“The town’s interest were well represented by the Attorney General’s office,” Glynn said. “I think they see the issue here is tenuous, so they throw in that there may be a septic issue, maybe some mold on the side of the house ... all of that habitability can be handled by a local zoning ordinance violation.”
Smeltzer gave Stephenson’s attorney and the Wisconsin Attorney General’s Office until Feb. 22 to respond to the town’s claims.
A motion hearing in the case was set for 11:30 a.m. April 26.