MANKATO — For nearly a year Jeremiah Booth has been spending most of his time in a prison cell in Faribault serving a 68-month sentence that never should have been issued.
When the sentence was ordered by Blue Earth County District Court Judge Kurt Johnson in October 2011, Booth’s attorney, Bradley Peyton, argued Johnson didn’t have the authority to send Booth to prison for the juvenile offense.
Booth, now 25, was a 15-year-old boy when he sexually assaulted children under the age of 13 in Blue Earth County. He was 24 when Johnson issued his sentence.
Johnson disagreed with Peyton and sent Booth to prison anyway. That decision was recently overruled by a Minnesota Court of Appeals decision that said Booth should be released.
The case is complicated, partially because it involves a rarely used court program that allows teens to remain on probation in juvenile court while an adult sentence hangs over their head, Peyton said. And the ruling is based on a technicality likely resulting from an administrative oversight, also something that happens very rarely, he said.
“It’s one of the very few cases I’ve ever been involved in where a procedural error occurred. It isn’t like TV where it happens all the time. It’s one of those rare cases where procedure wasn’t followed, but everyone has the right to have the court follow the rules.”
Booth was 15 when he started sexually assaulting children in 2002, but he was 17 before the assaults came to light. Prosecutors originally wanted to charge him as an adult but reached a plea agreement where Booth was given a 68-month adult prison sentence that was stayed as long as he completed treatment. The agreement also allowed the case to remain in juvenile court as long as the prison sentence wasn’t imposed.