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September 11, 1998

State Files Second Petition Requesting Civil Commitment Under New Sexually Violent Predator Law

The Iowa Attorney General's Office filed a petition today in Black Hawk County District Court asking the Court to order the civil commitment of Clarence E. Widner, age 40, under Iowa's new law providing for civil commitment of certain sexually violent offenders upon completion of their criminal sentence and their release from confinement. This case is the second filing under the new law, which took effect July 1. The first filing was August 20 in Scott County.

District Court Judge Todd Geer set a hearing to determine probable cause for 9 a.m. September 16 in Black Hawk County District Court. If probable cause is found at the hearing, a trial will be scheduled within sixty days to determine if Widner is a sexually violent predator under the law. Widner currently is confined at the Mt. Pleasant Correctional Facility and is scheduled to discharge his sentence on Sept. 22, 1998.

According to the statute, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an offender has previously been convicted of a sexually violent offense and suffers from a mental abnormality that makes him likely to engage in predatory acts constituting sexually violent offenses unless confined in a secure facility.

The petition and statement of probable cause filed today by the Attorney General's Office state that Widner was convicted in Black Hawk County November 15, 1985, of a charge of lascivious acts with a child, a four-year-old girl. Widner pled guilty and was sentenced to probation.

On July 10, 1995, according to the filing, Widner was convicted in Black Hawk County of two counts of lascivious acts with a child, a nine-year-old girl not related to Widner. Widner served three months in prison, then he was granted a suspended sentence, placed on probation, and required to reside at a residential facility for a period. Widner completed the sex offender treatment program and was released to "street" probation on April 12, 1996. On October 27, 1996, Widner was ordered back to the residential facility when it was discovered that he was possessing pornographic materials and was having inappropriate contact with minors at his place of employment. Widner also was alleged to have attempted to reside in high-risk areas, in the area of a school bus stop and across the street from a day care center. Widner's probation then was revoked and he was re-sentenced to concurrent five year prison terms.

The statement of probable cause also cites the opinion of Dr. Dennis Doren, a Madison, Wisconsin, expert in the evaluation of sexually violent predators, that Widner suffers from a mental abnormality that makes it more likely than not that he will commit a sexually violent act in the future if not confined in a secure facility.

If Widner is committed after the civil court proceeding, which may include a jury trial, he would likely be assigned to a special treatment unit at the Oakdale Medical and Classification Center near Iowa City. The treatment program is run by the Department of Human Services. Annual reviews of the commitment are required by the Iowa law.

To be eligible for the sexually violent predator program, offenders must first be screened and referred by a Multi-Disciplinary Committee in the Department of Corrections and recommended to the Attorney General's Office for commitment by a Prosecutors Review Committee.

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