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Freemasonry Watch




Uproar in Minnesota over Sheriff releasing inmate from jail to attend Masonic meetings




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The Albert Lee Tribune - Serving southern Minnesota and northern Iowa
http://www.albertleatribune.com/articles/2006/10/29/news/news2.txt

Judge: Sheriff never had permission

By Tim Engstrom, managing editor

Saturday, October 28, 2006 5:23 PM CDT

Freeborn County District Court Judge James Broberg said in an e-mail message last week that he requested Sheriff Mark Harig to provide a written request for bringing county jail inmate James Colstrup to Masonic Lodge meetings.

The judge said he never received a written request from Harig. The sheriff, contacted Saturday, said he does not recall Broberg asking for a written request.

Colstrup’s case has been handled by two judges, Broberg and John Chesterman. Harig went on the radio and spoke with the Tribune on Monday of last week. He said he had permission from the two judges to take Colstrup to Masonic Lodge meetings. Chesterman was on vacation last week.

Harig that day sent an e-mail to Broberg about what he told the public.

Broberg’s e-mail message, sent Tuesday and provided to the Tribune Friday via a public-records request, is a response to Harig’s initial message. He said Harig met him in a garage at the county courthouse to ask about taking Colstrup to Masonic meetings.

“You informed me that the request for Mr. Colstrup had been presented to Judge Chesterman and he had made a request to have the request presented to me also as both of us had been involved in the cases Mr. Colstrup was serving time on. I left a note to myself of your request and that a written request would be submitted. I went on vacation shortly after and upon my return was advised of Judge Chesterman’s order. I checked Mr. Colstrup’s files and did not find any written request from you or the jail administration in his files. I then received Mr. Colstrup’s request for a hearing to permit him to have work release re-instated.”

In Harig’s reply to Broberg’s message, the sheriff apologizes: “I don’t recall any direction for written requests to be sent. I thought I had received approval from both judges or I would not have started this. My apology if I did not provide what was expected.”

Colstrup, a self-employed painter, is serving a 180-day sentences for domestic violence. The inmate has been at the center of a debate on policy for when prisoners are allowed out of jail.

The matter blew up Oct. 5, the first day of the Rendezvous, when people approached the sheriff about Colstrup being at the event. When Colstrup was there Oct. 6, county probation officer Andrea Hall, Rendezvous organizers and some others questioned the sheriff’s judgment. On Oct. 8 the sheriff allowed Colstrup to cook at a pancake breakfast held by the Masons. Colstrup and Harig are both Masons. It had been the third time Colstrup was allowed to attend Masonic functions.

On Oct. 13, while Broberg was on vacation, Chesterman ordered the sheriff to not allow Colstrup out for any reason except medical emergencies. When Broberg returned, he found a request from Colstrup to review his work-release status. Broberg set a date of Oct. 19.

At the court hearing, Broberg ordered the sheriff and his staff to not let Colstrup out of jail for reasons other than work releases. And the judge said the self-employed Colstrup must display contracts and show proof of his work time.

Harig said in court and repeated last week to the public via news media he had permission and said the Rendezvous was a legitimate work release. Hall and others said it wasn’t about whether Harig broke a law, the matter was about whether Harig gave a criminal preferential treatment and about following policy.

The county policy states to inmates: “You will be allowed to work one full-time job. Anyone working a full-time job will not be allowed to work a part-time job at the same time.”

Harig also said he wanted to provide a helpful environment for Colstrup, who took jail over treatment for alcohol dependency.

“I tried my best to help the guy,” Harig told the Tribune Saturday.

Broberg, in the e-mail, said is it usual to provide requests for changing the release conditions for prisoners in writing. This allows other parties to have input on the decision.

“I did not know anything about his being released to work on the pancake breakfast. I only knew about the short meetings he would participate in,” Broberg wrote.

Broberg said the files available to the public should match prisoners’ release conditions.

“Without the written request being filed with the court, there was no written amendment to the original sentencing order contained in the files affecting Mr. Colstrup. Anyone reviewing the public files would not find anything but the original order. Thus, the public perception appears to have endangered the concerns raised in the past week,” the judge wrote.

Monday, Oct. 23, 10:54 a.m., e-mail from Sheriff Mark Harig to Freeborn County District Court Judges John Chesterman and James Broberg:

I met with Albert Lea Tribune this morning regarding the news article on Jim Colstrup.

I told them that the article was not accurate.

I explained that I met with Judge Chesterman about taking Colstrup to meetings to encourage him toward alcohol treatment in a positive supervised setting.

I explained that I also met with Judge Broberg and requested to do this also.

I advised that I had received permission from both judges before he was taken to any meetings.

I think that this news story was very inaccurate in that:

I had permission to take him out of jail.

He had not violated Huber work release.

He had not violated any OFP [order for protection] conditions.

I respect other’s concerns, but there was no intent to allow him to avoid jail time, responsibility for his violations or not disrespect of victims of abuse was ever intended.

Mark Harig, sheriff

Tuesday, Oct. 24, 3:16 p.m., e-mail from Judge Broberg to Sheriff Harig:

Sheriff Harig:

Thank you for sending me a summary of your meeting with the Albert Lea Tribune. Judge Chesterman is on vacation. Since it appears that there is a need to provide an accurate account of what transpired, I am sending you a summary of what was the process, as I understand, that is now being questioned and examined by the public.

You contacted me in the garage at the Government Center. You informed me that the request for Mr. Colstrup had been presented to Judge Chesterman and he had made a request to have the request presented to me also as both of us had been involved in the cases Mr. Colstrup was serving time on. I left a note to myself of your request and that a written request would be submitted. I went on vacation shortly after and upon my return was advised of Judge Chesterman’s order. I checked Mr. Colstrup’s files and did not find any written request from you or the jail administration in his files. I then received Mr. Colstrup’s request for a hearing to permit him to have work release re-instated.

At our conversation in the garage, you told me that Mr. Colstrup would be supervised by you personally at the meetings. You also told me that Mr. Colstrup would be working on the STS [Sentenced to Service] crew or would be supervised while doing work for the County of Freeborn, such as painting, which is his primary job as a self-employed painter.

I advised you to file the usual written request for an amendment to the sentencing order on file with the court administration. With your commitment to personally supervise Mr. Colstrup to these short periods, I would approve. This was to be done because the sentencing order only allowed for work release or STS. The sentencing order had to be amended and this is normally accomplished with a written request or special appearance in court. As I understood, the request for Mr. Colstrup to attend Masonic meetings was based on your plan to assist him in developing a support group to aid him in confronting his chemical dependency issues. I did not know anything about his being released to work on the pancake breakfast. I only knew about the short meetings he would participate in. As I understand, from the hearing, you were personally present to supervise Mr. Colstrup on any occasion he was not incarcerated and attended Masonic meetings. If not, then your usual procedure would be to have a deputy present supervising Mr. Colstrup.

The court, probation and you have cooperated in the past to make arrangements for release for treatment of individuals who are incarcerated when treatment programs recommend the necessity for attendance. Your jail administration has encouraged in jail AA and NA programs along with religious services. These are good programs and the new jail facility promotes and encourages the participation by inmates. When these special releases are requested, treatment agencies recommendations accompany the request to amend the sentencing order.

Without the written request being filed with the court, there was no written amendment to the original sentencing order contained in the files affecting Mr. Colstrup. Anyone reviewing the public files would not find anything but the original order. Thus, the public perception appears to have endangered the concerns raised in the past week.

If you wish, I will submit to the Tribune this e-mail so that any questions as to what happened can be answered.

James E. Broberg

District Judge

Tuesday, Oct. 24, 3:40 p.m., e-mail from Sheriff Harig to Judge Broberg:

I spoke with each of you personally and felt that I had been given authorization to take him to meetings with my supervision.

I don’t recall any direction for written requests to be sent. I thought I had received approval from both judges or I would not have started this. My apology if I did not provide what was expected.

Mark Harig

Tuesday, Oct. 24, 4:18 p.m., e-mail from Judge Broberg to Sheriff Harig:

You’re welcome. Let me know if there is anything else that I can do.

JEB









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