MSOP escapee: ‘Please don’t send me back’The cases of three men who attempted escape from the Minnesota Sexual Offender Program (MSOP) in Moose Lake last June took a new twist on Wednesday. In an unscheduled appearance, Steven Allan Housman, 42, Russell Lynn Norton, 55, and Christopher Loyd Ivey, 40, went individually before Judge Robert Macauley Jr. to request they not be released from the Carlton County Jail and returned to the MSOP while awaiting trial.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
The cases of three men who attempted escape from the Minnesota Sexual Offender Program (MSOP) in Moose Lake last June took a new twist on Wednesday. In an unscheduled appearance, Steven Allan Housman, 42, Russell Lynn Norton, 55, and Christopher Loyd Ivey, 40, went individually before Judge Robert Macauley Jr. to request they not be released from the Carlton County Jail and returned to the MSOP while awaiting trial.
Attorney Terri Port Wright represented both Housman and Norton, and Ivey appeared on his own behalf.
Housman and Norton, both of whom pleaded not guilty on grounds of mental illness and necessity (acting out of concern for their own safety or protection), were both scheduled for jury trials beginning March 1. Port Wright informed the court that both have agreed to withdraw their petition for a speedy trial in order to allow more time for her to interview expert witnesses and prepare for the two men’s defense. Port Wright also stated that the two men asked that they not be tried on the same day.
Assistant Carlton County Attorney Dennis Genereau pointed out that by this Friday, Housman (based on the number of criminal history points he has accrued from previous offenses) will have served out his maximum number of days in jail that would be awarded him if found guilty of the crime. Based on that fact, Genereau asked that Housman be released on his own recognizance and returned to
Genereau further requested that Norton and Ivey also be released on their own recognizance and returned to the MSOP, though neither has yet served out the maximum jail term based on their individual criminal history points. Genereau said he has spoken with the staff of the MSOP, who have indicated they are prepared to take the men back into the program and assured him they have taken appropriate measures to eliminate the potential for another escape attempt.
Port Wright argued that prisoners are typically released on their own recognizance only if there is no risk to themselves or the community. She said Housman believes it would not be safe for him at the MSOP because of the conditions there and the fact that he would be kept in isolation for 23 ½ hours of every day and denied
“He believes the conditions there are worse than in prison,” stated Port Wright, “and he would like to be kept at the Carlton County Jail until his case is resolved.”
“I can’t envision keeping someone in custody for longer than the period of time they would receive if sentenced for the crime they are accused of,” replied Macauley, who then ordered that Housman be released on his own recognizance and returned to the MSOP immediately following the court session. He also agreed to Port Wright’s request that both men be granted separate trials, which will be scheduled following further review.
Speaking on his own behalf, Housman complained about how conditions at the MSOP were intolerable and said being returned there at this time would be “punitive
“Compared to the MSOP, the county jail is a blessing,” he said.
Macauley informed Housman that keeping him in the jail beyond his maximum sentencing time was “not an option.”
Port Wright stated that Norton has likewise agreed to withdraw his petition for a speedy trial in the name of more thorough preparation. She pointed out that Norton has a high criminal history score and two previous escape convictions from other secure facilities, and asked that he be retained at the county jail rather than being returned to the MSOP as he has requested.
Norton pleaded with Judge Macauley not to dole out further punishment to him by returning him to the MSOP, stating that conditions have gotten even worse since he attempted escape last June.
“Please don’t subject me to any more mental and physical abuse without recourse,” Norton said. “Please don’t send me back. I’d rather be euthanized.”
Macauley nonetheless ordered Norton be sent back to the MSOP on his own recognizance.
“I don’t have the jurisdiction to address the conditions at the MSOP or the circumstances of your placement there,” explained Macauley.
Genereau said he has been sharing discovery with Ivey, who is scheduled for an omnibus hearing on March 9, and will continue to work with him in preparing for his defense. He said though Ivey is not as close to using up his full time in jail as the other two, it would only be fair to have Ivey released on his own recognizance and returned to the MSOP similar to the other two men involved in the escape attempt. Judge Macauley agreed and ordered that Ivey be transported to the MSOP pending his next court appearance.
According to court records, the men were caught trying to scale the fences of the secure facility in Moose Lake in June 2010. At that time, MSOP Special Investigator Jamie Jungers determined that all four men had earlier concocted an elaborate escape scheme that involved jimmying the facility door leading from the interior of the facility out to the courtyard area in order to prohibit staff from immediately apprehending them when they ran from the interior to the courtyard.