Mark Bliven said people with a history of sex offenses have always lived in our communities.
More than 30 people gathered at Immanuel Lutheran Church on Wednesday, Aug. 16, to get their questions answered and express concerns about a Level 3 predatory offender who is moving to Eden Prairie.
“This isn’t something new and didn’t just happen in Eden Prairie,” said Bliven, director of risk assessment and community notification with the Minnesota Department of Corrections.
The Eden Prairie Police Department and Department of Corrections hosted a notification meeting to release information about Jerry Bryant Thomas, 44, who will move to the area of Kara Drive and Edenvale Boulevard effective Aug. 30. There are no other Level 3 predatory offenders living in the city.
Minnesota began a registration system for offenders in 1991 and the system is administered by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Since 1997, Minnesota’s Community Notification Act requires assignment of a risk level to offenders subject to registration as a predatory offender before they’re released from incarceration.
There are three risk levels. The first level is the lowest public risk, Level 2 is moderate public risk and Level 3 is the highest public risk.
Offenders who have been convicted of criminal sexual conduct, including any sexual conduct involving a minor; possession of child pornography; kidnapping and false imprisonment are required to register.
As of Jan. 1, 2017, 17,680 people were required to register in Minnesota. As of Aug. 10, 2,555 registrants were living in Hennepin County and 42 were living in Eden Prairie.
“All 42 registered offenders are subject to monitoring by the city. They know when they move in and they move out,” Bliven said.
A Level 3 offender moving to a community requires broad notification of the community, according to Bliven.
Eden Prairie Police Officer Elizabeth Stroner said the department notified people living within a half mile of the registered address by U.S. mail, posted information about Thomas on the city’s website and also notified Hennepin County licensed child care facilities, the city’s communication’s department, local schools and school districts and neighboring law enforcement agencies.
According to the Department of Corrections, Thomas is 5 feet, 7 inches tall, weighs 178 pounds and has black hair and brown eyes. He has been convicted as an adult for criminal sexual conduct that included penetration involving 15-year-old female victims. He also has adult convictions for controlled substance and burglary.
In 1998, he was convicted in Hennepin County after he gained access to one victim’s home and took advantage of her sleeping and intoxicated state. His sentence was one year and seven months.
In 2007, he was convicted again in Hennepin County after he offered a female victim a ride home, held her against her will and used physical force. In that case his sentence was seven years and four months. Neither of the criminal sexual conduct offenses occurred in Eden Prairie.
In 1998 he went to prison and was released in May 1999 as a Level 1 offender. He was released from prison in 2007 as a Level 3 offender. He was also sentenced to prison in 1999 and 2001 for controlled substance and in 2003 for burglary.
Failures to meet his terms of supervised release resulted in returns to prison in 2000, 2002, 2006, 2013, 2015 and 2016. He’s now under supervision until May 17, 2022, and is required to register until July 31, 2026, Bliven said.
Bliven said Thomas is undergoing intense supervision while he’s released with conditions including no possession of sexually explicit materials, no contact with minors or victims, no use of alcohol or illicit substances, obtain and maintain a full-time approved schedule and no use or monitored/restricted use of internet.
The Department of Corrections supervision agents can use several methods to keep track of offenders including house arrest, electronic monitoring, random drug or alcohol screenings, unannounced residential or work contacts, strict schedules, daily check-ins and treatment for chemical dependency and being a sex offender, Bliven said.
One resident asked how Thomas chose his housing. Bliven said before someone leaves prison, they’re required to find a place to live and to come up with an acceptable plan. Before the living place is approved, it’s reviewed by the offender’s supervising agent to make sure it’s a situation where the offender won’t have additional risks associated with it. Anyone who is living in the home with the offender has to agree to live by the same restrictions and requirements.
“He has a right to get out of prison and go into the community with set parameters,” Bliven said.
Some parents voiced concerns about Thomas being close to a bus stop and potential interactions with children there. Bliven said Thomas does not have a history of abducting children and he’s not allowed to have contact with minors unless it has been approved by his supervising agent and he’s required to maintain a strict schedule to use his time productively. He added that if neighbors notice Thomas engaging in questionable behavior they should call 911.
Bliven said the purpose of the meeting was to keep the community informed because the ultimate goal is safety. Minnesota law permits those who are released from prison to live in the community and engage in activities such as working, going to treatment, shopping, attending church, getting medical care and living free from harassment.
“You can be the eyes and ears. The eyes and ears are everybody, that includes young people and children. We want to make sure children in their community — if they see something questionable — that they report it to a trusted adult,” Bliven said.