Eleven years ago, Jeremy Giefer became what Politico’s Ben Smith called “the story every governor fears.”
In 2008, Minnesota GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty was part of a three-person panel that pardoned Giefer for impregnating a 14-year-old when he was 19. According to local conservative outlet Alpha News Minnesota, Giefer served 45 days after he was found guilty, but he went on to marry the girl he impregnated and she supported his criminal history being wiped from the books.
Thus, a three-person panel consisting of Pawlenty, then-Attorney General Lori Swanson, a Democrat, and then-Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson signed off on the pardon. A man who had groomed, slept with and impregnated a 14-year-old girl had his conviction wiped from the books.
At the time, Pawlenty’s spokesman said he had supported the pardon “because it involved sexual conduct between two people who became husband and wife, maintained a long-term marriage, had a family together, and because the defendant completed his sentence many years before seeking the pardon which his wife and others supported.”
In 2010 — two years before a presidential race in which Pawlenty was widely speculated to be a front-runner — Giefer was accused of sexually assaulting a family member over 250 times, starting when she was 9 years old, according to the Mankato Free Press.
The girl in that case ended up recanting and the charges were dropped, although there was speculation she was under pressure from the family.
It turned out to be a non-issue for Pawlenty’s career after he left the governor’s office. His 2012 campaign began and ended in 2011 after garnering virtually no support on the early campaign trail. The only people who remember him, aside from Minnesotans, are Republican die-hards, wonks, geeks and the kind of squishy conservatives who wish for the days when men like Pawlenty, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan were considered the future of the GOP.
Thus, when it comes to Pawlenty’s legacy, Jeremy Giefer might be the one thing that stays attached to it — because 11 years after the media was busy speculating whether or not the convicted sex offender would sink a presidential campaign, Giefer was quietly charged with another alleged sexual assault of a young girl last week.
According to the Free Press, Giefer faces felony and gross misdemeanor counts of criminal sexual assault after a 13-year-old girl reported he molested her last month at his home in St. Peter, Minnesota. He was charged in Nicollet County District Court Sept. 21.
The girl told police that she was invited over to spend the night at Giefer’s new house last month. Shortly after she got there, he purportedly groped her and then sat on her. The alleged victim said she tried to get away, but that Giefer only laughed.
Another girl heard her screaming and came into the room, which is when the assault reportedly ended. However, Giefer sent the girl suggestive text messages asking her to come out of the bedroom.
The warrant for the case said that “a family or household member” of Giefer’s observed the assault and said he both spanked and groped the alleged victim.
According to Alpha News, he’s now facing four counts which could land him behind bars for 46 years if he’s convicted.
In one of the text messages, Giefer texted the alleged victim, telling her, “Go to bed” and “I can still here u lol.” When the alleged victim responded by saying the witness, who was part of Giefer’s family, “says to close your eyes,” Giefer reportedly responded, “Come make me.”
Later, Giefer supposedly texted “Visit” to the alleged victim. When she said she didn’t understand, he responded, “Bathroom.” When she asked why, he responded with a “shushing emoji” and an emoji with a zipper over its mouth. When she again asked why, he responded, “All talk lol.”
When the alleged victim texted that she was going to bed, Giefer reportedly texted, “Come out. When she asked why, he responded with, “Door lock” and then, “I need help with my back.”
The one time the alleged victim said she opened the door during the night to go to the bathroom, the warrant stated she took pepper spray with her, just in case.
In the 2010 case, the girl had her allegations brought to the attention of police through what’s known as a mandated reporter, someone in a position where they’re legally obligated to report allegations of child abuse to law enforcement. The girl was, by all accounts, around the age of 16; she outlined a seven-year pattern of abuse to authorities, although she couldn’t be certain when it started because, according to court documents, she had “erased it from her mind.”
“[The girl] states … she sees him and just closes her eyes because she cannot do anything to stop him,” court documents said. “[She] further reports that sometimes she tries to get away from Giefer and locks herself in the bathroom. [She] stated that one time he grabbed her by the arm in the corner of her room and forced her to the ground and had intercourse with her.”
These were the allegations. As noted, that girl recanted. However, what Giefer was willing to admit to doing was distressing enough.
“When questioned, Giefer denied almost all of the girl’s allegations. Instead, he admitted that on a few occasions his contact with the girl could be characterized as inappropriate,” the Free Press reported at the time.
“Giefer denies all wrongdoing, and told authorities, ‘I haven’t. I’m not that type. I refuse to, but we always have wrestled around.'”
Local Fox affiliate KEYC-TV reported that Giefer had told police a bit more than that: “Giefer did admit to police that in several instances he had touched the victim’s breasts and genitalia, as well as kissing her neck while wrestling with her in her bed, but that it was not sexual.”
There’s no presidential campaign to blow up this time around, but the fact remains the original pardon was unconscionable. Sex offenders shouldn’t have crimes they were justly convicted of washed away — not just because of recidivism rates, because those remain a matter of debate, but because of who is made vulnerable through recidivism, particularly when the sex crime involves a minor.
Giefer may have been long out of jail when the pardon was issued, but the permanent record is important, if just because it makes it clear who represents a potential danger to the community.
Tim Pawlenty was one of the people who erased Giefer’s permanent record. May this decision forever be part of his.
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