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Sex offender gets 20 years in Moose Lake attack

George Mack Jr.

CARLTON — Zachary Campbell hasn’t been able to shave the beard that hides the scars left from a Jan. 29 attack at the Minnesota Sex Offender Program facility in Moose Lake.

Putting a metal blade anywhere near his neck is simply too terrifying, Campbell said Friday. Even coming to the Carlton County Courthouse to share his story was almost too much.

Campbell said he suffers regular flashbacks and nightmares recalling the moment sex offender George Mack Jr. attempted to end his life with an improvised weapon consisting of a razor blade fastened to a toothbrush with dental floss and a rubber band.

“I no longer have a sense of safety and security,” Campbell told a judge. “My life has been uprooted.”

Mack, 42, appeared to grin and nod his head as Campbell delivered a victim-impact statement that 6th Judicial District Judge Leslie Beiers described as “one of the most powerful and compelling statements I’ve ever heard.”

Moments later, Beiers sentenced Mack to the statutory maximum 20 years in prison.

Mack pleaded guilty to an attempted premeditated first-degree murder charge last month, doing so without the benefit of a plea agreement and against the advice of his own attorney.

Mack was civilly committed to the secure Moose Lake treatment center as a “sexually dangerous person” in 2010 after serving a prison sentence on multiple convictions for criminal sexual conduct in southeastern Minnesota in the late 1990s.

Court records show he was convicted of at least five prior assaults while in prison or at the state facility. His history is so replete with violence that the guideline sentence for the crime was actually calculated to be three months higher than the statutory maximum for attempted murder.

Campbell, a father of four who has spent 18 years working as a mental-health practitioner, was joined in the courtroom by his family for the sentencing. He described the attack as “vicious” and “life-changing.”

After six years of stable employment with the state of Minnesota, Campbell is unsure what the future holds for his career. He said he suffers from severe insomnia that makes it difficult to get out of bed — much less go out in public — impacting even the small joys of life he used to experience with his family.

“It is difficult to explain to children why dad doesn’t go to work, when he will return or why someone would do this,” he told the court. “Everything in my life is in question.”

Campbell said he was just 20 days into his new role as manager of the unit where Mack was housed when the attack occurred. Mack admitted to investigators that he was attempting to kill Campbell because he was upset about an encounter the prior day.

Authorities said Campbell was leading a group session when Mack approached from behind, making two slashing motions at his throat. Campbell was able to lower his head, preventing more serious injury, and escape from Mack’s grasp. Mack gave chase, repeatedly punching another employee, before he was subdued.

State Human Services Commission Tony Lourey told the News Tribune in February that the incident was "one of the most serious attacks of this sort we've seen in the history of this program,” further describing it as a “very traumatic event for many people, particularly those two staff who were most directly involved.”

Campbell told the court Friday that he could see a look of disappointment in Mack’s face when he failed to complete the killing. He said the defendant would eventually need to face his issues.

“I am not a marionette to your orchestration of fear and violence,” Campbell told Mack.

Carlton County Attorney Lauri Ketola told the judge that Mack had “earned” the full 240-month sentence. Defense attorney Joanna Wiegert did not contest the recommendation, saying it was “consistent with what was anticipated.”

Mack declined to address the court, simply telling the judge: “Some things are better left unsaid.”

Beiers, in imposing the maximum term, called Mack’s actions “brutal and violent.” She took the opportunity to directly address the victim.

“I hope you find peace from this senseless attack,” Beiers told Campbell. “I have a lot of confidence that you will.”

Mack’s sentence was handed down only 38 days after the attack.

“I give a lot of credit to the Moose Lake Police Department and Chief (Bryce) Bogenholm,” Ketola said outside the courtroom. “They built a really solid case.”