ST. CLOUD, Minn. --- Stearns County is considering calling a grand jury to seek an indictment against a repeat sex offender who was arrested last week and accused of raping a 14-year-old girl in Waite Park.
The indictment would allow prosecutors to seek a life sentence for John William Magney, 56, who previously was convicted of sexually assaulting two girls — a 4-year-old in the early 1980s in Mille Lacs County and a 6-year-old in the mid-1990s in Benton County.
Magney recently was charged with first- and third-degree criminal sexual conduct, accused of assaulting the girl early Dec. 17 at a Waite Park residence.
"It appears with his past record that he may qualify for the life sentence, which requires calling a grand jury," said Stearns County Attorney Janelle Kendall. "We're looking at that right now."
A court complaint charging Magney indicates that he provided the girl with a drink while she was watching a movie. The girl felt dizzy after drinking from it. Magney is accused of undressing the girl and forcing intercourse on her.
A witness walked in on the assault in progress, according to the complaint, and Magney left the residence. The witness told investigators that the girl appeared to be struggling to get up and put her clothes back on. The witness had to help the girl get dressed.
The girl was taken to the hospital where doctors noticed bruises on her wrist and back and injuries consistent with a rape, according to the complaint.
Magney remains in Stearns County Jail in lieu of $1 million bail.
The county has used a 2005 law change once before to seek an indictment in a sexual assault case. That law provided for life sentences in certain sexual assault cases, but required a grand jury indictment rather than a charging decision from a county attorney's office.
In that previous case, a then 22-year-old man was indicted after he raped, beat and tortured a woman in August 2011 in south St. Cloud, then had to be rescued from the Mississippi River after jumping in.
James David Bryson was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and admitting causing injuries that a judge described as "brutal and barbaric."
The state attorney general's office in 2010 filed a petition to commit Magney indefinitely to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program based on his sex offenses against the two young girls and a bestiality charge to which Magney pleaded guilty in 2008.
That petition was dismissed after three experts who examined Magney, or his records, gave opinions that he didn't meet the criteria for commitment.
The first doctor who evaluated Magney, Dr. Peter Marston, recommended commitment for Magney as a sexually dangerous person but not as a sexual psychopathic personality. His recommendation, which was based only on a review of records, included a belief that Magney be designated a Level 2 sex offender, not the higher Level 3 offender.
That assessment caused the Attorney General's Office to file the petition seeking to commit Magney. The next step in that process is to have the court appoint an examiner to assess the subject of the commitment.
The court-appointed psychologist who examined Magney, Dr. Amanda Powers-Sawyer, interviewed him for more than three hours, reviewed the documents that Marston had reviewed and read updated treatment records that showed that Magney had completed sex offender treatment while in custody.
Powers-Sawyer determined that Magney didn't meet the commitment criteria.
Stearns County then asked Marston to review Powers-Sawyer's report and the updated treatment records. Marston then changed his opinion and said that he wouldn't recommend committing Magney as a sexually dangerous person.
The county and attorney general's office then sought a third opinion, something that doesn't happen frequently in commitment cases.
Magney's criminal record was the reason the county "went the extra mile to get the third examiner," Kendall said. "We certainly did everything that we possibly could in 2011 to go down this path."
Dr. James Alsdurf reviewed the cases and the opinions of Marston and Powers-Sawyer. He found that Magney's completion of sex offender treatment was the "primary justification" for his determination that Magney did not meet the criteria for civil commitment.
The law requires having at least one examiner recommending commitment in order to proceed with such a petition. With none of the three doctors recommending commitment, the county had to dismiss the petition.
Magney was released from prison in 2011 but was sent back after failing to comply with predatory offender registration requirements in Freeborn County. He was a Level 2 sex offender at the time of his arrest.
Had he been classified as a Level 3, those deemed most likely to re-offend, the community would have been notified of his past convictions and his current address.
Follow David Unze on Twitter: @sctimesunze