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Don Davis, Published October 16 2007

State reaches $300,000 settlement with Sjodin family

ST. PAUL – The state of Minnesota is paying relatives of slain college student Dru Sjodin $300,000 after the family claimed the state improperly released from prison a convicted sex offender.

The family and the Pawlenty administration made the agreement on June 20, but it only became public this week.

State officials refused to comment on the deal directly.

“We are hopeful that the settlement agreement between the state of Minnesota and the Dru Sjodin family brings some closure to this sad chapter in Minnesota history,” state Corrections Commissioner Joan Fabian said in a statement. “I have expressed my sympathy to Dru’s parents for their loss as well as my admiration for their steps to bring about positive change in response to Dru’s untimely death.”

The agreement specifically says the state accepts no responsibility for Sjodin’s death.

Sjodin, a University of North Dakota student, was kidnapped from a Grand Forks, N.D., mall parking lot on Nov. 22, 2003, about a half year after Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. of Crookston, Minn., finished serving a 23-year prison term.

Sjodin’s body was found near Crookston the following April. A federal jury last year convicted Rodriguez for killing her and he was sentenced to death.

In 2004, members of Sjodin’s family told Minnesota officials that they planned to sue the state for more than $1 million because the state should have kept Rodriguez locked up after his sentence ended.

Counties, often working with the state attorney general’s office, frequently seek to keep the most dangerous sex offenders in a state hospital after their prison terms end. There was no attempt to commit Rodriguez to a hospital.

A spokesman for Attorney General Lori Swanson said people from Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s office and Fabian’s department conducted the negotiations with Sjodin’s family. Pawlenty’s office did not immediately return a call seeking comment and Fabian’s spokeswoman said the commissioner would have no comment about negotiations.

Swanson also did not immediately return calls.

The settlement means the family cannot sue the state over Sjodin’s death.

Rodriguez has a long history of sex crimes and state documents indicate he refused to participate in therapy while in prison. He served 28 years on sex-related charges.

Documents indicate there was some concern about Rodriguez if he were released. Pawlenty often has said his administration is not responsible for Rodriguez’ release because the pre-release procedure began under Gov. Jesse Ventura.

Read more Wednesday in The Forum. State reaches $300,000 settlement with Sjodin family Don Davis 20071016