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Judge Frank denies media request to attend sex-offender program hearing

Local media organizations, including MinnPost, had challenged the judge’s ruling to open today’s hearing, which will be attended by the governor and top legislators.

This morning’s federal court meeting on the disputed Minnesota Sex Offender Program — between a federal judge and Gov. Mark Dayton and many top legislators — will remain closed to the public and the media.

Local media organizations, including MinnPost, had challenged the ruling by U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank that the public and the media would not be admitted to the hearing.

Frank denied the media’s request Friday. He also denied the media’s alternative option: that a transcript of the hearing be made available. Frank has called the meeting a “remedies phase pre-hearing conference.”

The governor, in his daily schedule, noted that: “Per the instructions of Judge Frank, this meeting is closed to the press.” But he said that immediately following the meeting, he will take questions from reporters at the federal courthouse in downtown St. Paul.

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Frank had ruled in June that the sex-offender program is unconstitutional because it keeps about 700 offenders confined for long periods without determining whether they continue to pose a threat to the community. He scheduled today’s conference with state officials to consider the future of the program. 

Dayton has said he plans to present a plan for the program at the meeting that will “talk about what it would take in terms of legislative language, and more important it’s going to talk about what it’s going to require in terms of money to get it started.”