Social media interaction-compared to public attendance-painted a different story regarding a community notification meeting for a Level 3 predatory offender.
Social media side: The Brainerd Police Department's Facebook page had 173 shares and 19 comments and the Brainerd Dispatch's Facebook page had 241 shares and 24 comments last week about the posting of a community notification meeting for Level 3 predatory offender Terry Bryant moving to Brainerd.
Public meeting: One person, who does not live in Brainerd, showed up to the community notification meeting Thursday, March 21, at the Brainerd Police Department to learn more about Bryant.
Bryant, 36, will be released from the Moose Lake prison Monday and will move into a residence near Washington Street and Gillis Avenue in Brainerd. Bryant has a history of sexual contact with male and female victims under age 16.
Officials from the Brainerd Police Department and the Minnesota Department of Corrections were present at the notification meeting, ready to provide information about Bryant and general information about Level 3 predatory offenders.
Instead of the typical community notification meeting format-where Sara Hustad, the DOC community notification coordinator, presents a slideshow of information and then hosts a question-and-answer period to give people a chance to address their concerns-the meeting turned informal and offered the man in attendance the chance to ask questions.
The man, Ray Maier of St. Cloud, told staff he had to leave in a half-hour to drive back for another meeting, and asked about the meeting format as he didn't want to be rude by leaving early while, at the same time, he wanted information about Bryant and the process.
The DOC staff was happy to oblige Maier and he was able to ask his questions and get the information he needed.
"I appear on behalf of Terry Bryant," Maier said in an interview after he talked with the DOC. "(Terry) wanted me to attend the meeting to find out what was going to happen and what was going to be said about him and as far as plans."
Maier knows Bryant through an acquaintance, who reached him because of his background in law enforcement. Maier said his acquaintance wanted to see if he could be a person of support for Bryant. Maier said he will work with the DOC staff and if there is a place for him to help, he will.
"We've already had an early discussion about potential employment in St. Cloud, but that won't happen for quite some time," Maier said. "He has some programs to attend to first."
Maier said he researched the community notification process in the Brainerd area and found over the past several years the community support has been waning.
"If you look back over the last several years and look at the community support, the community participation has diminished," he said. "Either it could be one extreme that the community interest isn't there anymore or the other extreme, which is the one I lean toward is, that the Minnesota Department of Corrections is doing a very good job in placing these people and seeing more of a success rate. I don't know the statistics, but I'm leaning toward they have a good program set up and people are not afraid like they were 10 years ago."
Hustad said sometimes there is scant attendance, but the people who come need to be there and want the information and the DOC can provide the information they need.
"I'm sorry there were not more people because this is where you get the relevant, factual information," Hustad said. "Drawing your own conclusions based on what you see online or hear from your neighbors, or your family, or your friend is not reliable. Coming to a meeting and actually getting the facts, that's useful. So in that respect, I'm sorry there weren't more people here, but the person who was here got good information."
Hustad said it's easy for people to have a distorted viewpoint of Level 3 offenders.
"Level 3 offenders are not atypical," she said. "They are higher risk people. Most of these people do not reoffend. Ninety percent don't reoffend, 90 percent have no priors and 90 percent are known to the person they victimize. Those are important things for people to keep in mind.
"And where they live doesn't affect their dangerousness. Living near a school, a park or a day care has no bearing on whether or not they are more likely to offend against a minor."
In Brainerd, Bryant is the only Level 3 offender who will live in the city at this time. In Crow Wing County, there are four Level 3 offenders-Brandon Churchill, Thomas Erickson, Terrance Lindmark and Christopher Roehl.
As of March 15, there were 179 predatory offenders, of all three levels, living in Crow Wing County. Information on Level 1 and Level 2 offenders is not public information and the DOC and law enforcement do not disclose the offenders' names or addresses. Aitkin County has 52 registrants, 123 are in Mille Lacs County, 91 are in Morrison County and 130 are in Cass County.
After the meeting, Brainerd Police Deputy Chief Mike Bestul said anytime a new Level 3 predatory offender moves into Brainerd, police notify the public immediately and host a community notification meeting. Police also will notify the community if there is something relating to a predatory offender that "rises to a higher level" about which the community needs to be aware.
The police department uses social media and the Brainerd Dispatch to notify the community on Level 3 offenders and if people have questions, they can contact law enforcement or they can attend the notification meetings.
"The Minnesota Department of Corrections does a good job at providing the necessary information and people feel comfortable with that," Bestul said. "If they are not comfortable with it, they call law enforcement and we talk to them individually or they can attend the notification meeting, if they chose."
Bryant's criminal history
Bryant was convicted with two criminal sexual conduct crimes-one in 2003 in the state of Georgia and the second in 2013 in Brainerd.
In 2003, at about age 20, he was convicted of two counts of criminal sexual conduct and two counts of statutory rape, involving two adolescent girls under age 16, Hustad said. Contact included penetration and he was known to his victims.
Bryant was convicted of third-degree criminal sexual conduct in 2013 in Crow Wing County District Court. The complaint filed against him states a 15-year-old boy told an investigator he engaged in sexual intercourse in May 2013 with a man from Little Falls he knew as Terry. The boy stated he met the man on an online social networking site called Tagged about two months before the incident took place.
The teen stated Bryant told him he was 30 and the teen told Bryant he was 18. A few days later, the boy told Bryant he was 15 and Bryant freaked out, stating the teen's mother would put him in jail. The complaint goes on to state the two were together three more times at three businesses in Brainerd.
When investigators interviewed Bryant, he denied knowing the teen. Bryant was sentenced in September 2014.