The Free Press, Mankato, MN

April 30, 2014

Sibley County sex offender ruling confuses

Lawyers, judges struggle with the case of Cedrick Ince that the Supreme Court reversed

By Josh Moniz
jmoniz@mankatofreepress.com

---- — GAYLORD — Uncertainty was the major issue Wednesday in Sibley County District Court as the judge, prosecution and defense struggled to determine the path forward after the Minnesota Supreme Court reversed the civil commitment of a former Sibley County sex offender.

Cedrick Scott Ince, 24, is a registered sex offender who was prosecuted for two sex crimes involving rape in Sibley County in 2007 and 2008. The first took place Feb. 11, 2007, when Ince, then 17, sexually assaulted a 17-year-old girl who had passed out after drinking at a party. He pleaded guilty to fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct in juvenile court and was placed on probation.

On Oct. 5, 2008, three weeks after he was placed on probation, he broke into the house of another acquaintance and raped her. He pleaded guilty to third-degree criminal sexual conduct and was sentenced to 48 months in prison.

He was sentenced to four years in prison and underwent eight months of intensive supervised release prior to May 2012. He worked on a dairy farm and rented a farmhouse from his employer during that time.

Sibley County sought to civilly commit Ince to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program at the end of his sentencing period.

The Supreme Court threw out Ince's civil commitment, which returned the case to Sibley County.

The Supreme Court ruled that Sibley County court's findings for designating Ince a sexually dangerous person lacked sufficient detail for the Supreme Court to make a determination. The high court also ruled the county had failed to formally determine whether less restrictive treatment alternatives were available.

Unclear, uncertain

Sibley County Judge Thomas McCarthy, Sibley County Attorney Noah Cashman and Mankato-based defense attorney Ken White each noted Wednesday that the Supreme Court ruling was confusing and challenging because the ruling lacked almost any guidance on how to address the issues cited in the court's ruling.

Regarding the sexually dangerous designation, Cashman argued that prior testimony and determination were sufficient to earn the designation. He argued he was confused by the Supreme Court decision, but it was likely that a more detailed finding would meet the Supreme Court's needs.

White argued the Supreme Court ruling simply gave the court another opportunity to review the designation and make certain the correct decision had been made.

White also noted he had raised objections during the Supreme Court hearing about potential "double dipping" of evidence against the individual as part of the civil commitment process. He argued that factors, such as age, were twice used against an individual while the court sought to determine if an individual met the legal standards for the designation.

Regarding the availability of less-restrictive treatments, McCarthy said he had extensively read the Supreme Court ruling but still felt confused about what they sought.

Cashman said he was equally confused but argued he was very skeptical a lesser program would accept Ince if a civil commitment was enacted.

Following the hearing, White argued the Supreme Court was simply taking issue with Sibley County not formally completing the process of determining if other options were available. He said the determination needed to be formally made, even if court thought a similar outcome was likely.

During the court hearing, he indicated they may call witnesses from other sex offender programs to testify on what options were available.

A hearing is scheduled for May 14 to discuss whether less-restrictive treatment options are available for Ince. Both sides will then have until June 2 to file briefs. The judge will then make a determination.

Held up

The hearing Wednesday also dealt with arguments on where Ince should be held for the duration of the trial.

Cashman argued Ince was a public risk and should be returned to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program in Moose Lake.

White argued Ince had shown great improvement with behavioral problems, so he should be allowed supervised release to either select family members or to the farm where he worked.

Cashman challenged White's characterization of Ince's behavior.

McCarthy ruled Ince would stay in the local jail until he issued his order. The judge said he planned to issue a ruling by at least Monday but hopes to issue a ruling by Friday.