Pawlenty: I Wouldn’t Have Pardoned Sex Offender — If New Allegations Are True

Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), who is widely seen as being a potential presidential candidate, has publicly responded to media coverage of a pardon that he and the state board made of a man who had pled guilty to statutory rape many years before — and is now alleged to have been molesting his own daughter all the while.

Let’s round up the information at hand, and get a good look at the circumstances of the case.As the Star Tribune reported Monday, Pawlenty and the state pardon board unanimously granted a pardon two years ago to Jeremy Giefer, who in the 1990s had impregnated a 14-year-old girlfriend when he was 19. Giefer pled guilty to statutory rape at the time, served 45 days in jail, and then married the girl and raised the child.

The pardon board is composed of the governor, state Attorney General Lori Swanson (D) and the state Chief Justice (at the time, Pawlenty appointee Eric Magnuson, who also now currently works as a lead attorney for GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer in the state recount). At the time, they took into consideration the fact that Giefer had married the girl and raised a family together.

Keep in mind that the pardon did not set Giefer free — he had been a free man for 15 years, and wanted to clear his record after an extended period of seemingly being a law-abiding citizen. But now, years after the pardon, Giefer has been accused of committing serial child molestation upon the daughter he fathered 17 years ago — both before, during and after the pardon process.

No evidence has surfaced that gives any reason to believe that Pawlenty or the pardon board would have had access to any information about these new accusations at the time they approved Giefer’s pardon.

In the wake of the initial reports, Pawlenty’s office forwarded this statement to the local media:

The Governor has consistently opposed pardons for sex offenders and believes sex offenses are heinous. However, the Board made an exception in this case and voted unanimously to pardon this 1994 conviction 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.

The City Pages, the top Twin Cities alternative paper, did some further digging into the court papers, which identify the accuser as Giefer’s daughter: “In fact, the complaint alleges, Giefer had been raping his daughter for about six years when Pawlenty granted him his extraordinary pardon.”

As the paper reports:

Faced with the allegations, Giefer at first denied them outright, saying. “I’m not that type…. I was charged 18 years ago and am not that kind of person.”

But the denials quickly turned to prevarications. Yes, Giefer told a detective, he had put his daughter on birth control pills. Yes, he had grabbed her breasts, but “it was just messing around.” Yes, he had exposed his penis to her, but it was “accidental.” And yes, while on top of his daughter in her bed while “wrestling,” he had kissed her neck and stuck his hand inside her shorts and touched her bare vagina.

Further examination of the pardon board papers by City Pages finds that Giefer had requested the pardon in order to clear his record, and thus increase his opportunities to expand his towing company — and also so that his wife could open a day-care center in their home:

“I was told May 2007 that I could no longer coach my son’s baseball team because I was considered a sex offender. We opened a towing company October 2004 and we were told that if we would like to expand our business and tow for the state Patrol you need to have a clear record. Also my wife has worked in the childcare field for 11 years and she was hoping to open our home to care for children but she is not able to do that since I live in the home.”

And, as the Star Tribune reports, Pawlenty responded at greater length on Wednesday. “Had this new information been available to the Board at the time of the pardon request, the pardon should not and would not have been granted,” Pawlenty said in a statement.

He also spoke to the press:

On Wednesday, Pawlenty told reporters: “We all have to keep in mind that this pardon was granted many years after he had served his sentence and been out of jail for many years. … The granting or not granting of the pardon wouldn’t have changed his availability to commit future crimes or the crimes that he’s alleged to have committed. We didn’t let him out of jail.”

In calling for a perjury investigation, Pawlenty noted that applicants for pardons must swear that they have been law-abiding since finishing their sentence, “and [Giefer] indicated under oath that he had been. … [If the new allegations are true] that was obviously a lie and may well have constituted perjury or another form of fraud.”

Pawlenty also said, “The alleged behavior of this individual is sickening, and it makes me heartsick.”

In addition, the Pawlenty administration has suspended the daycare center license of Giefer’s wife.