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Minnesota Sex Offender Program: One man's case complicated by deportation order, child

MOOSE LAKE, Minn. - Of the dozens of men who believe they should be released from the Minnesota Sex Offender Program in Moose Lake, perhaps Hayden Michael Richards has the strongest case.

MOOSE LAKE, Minn. - Of the dozens of men who believe they should be released from the Minnesota Sex Offender Program in Moose Lake, perhaps Hayden Michael Richards has the strongest case.

He shouldn't even be in the country.

Richards, 37, is a citizen of Trinidad and has had an order to be deported back there by the U.S. Department of Immigration and Homeland Security since 1999, according to court records.

Richards served 10 years in prison for beating and raping two women and attempting to rape two more in the mid-1990s in the St. Paul area.

Before his release in 2006, Ramsey County petitioned to have him committed for treatment at MSOP, which spends an average of $120,000 a year on each offender, about 3½ times the cost of prison.


And while in Moose Lake, Richards fathered a child with a security counselor at the facility.

That woman, Lindsay Wood, who now lives in the Twin Cities area, told the Duluth News Tribune last week that she had a consensual sexual relationship with Richards for eight to nine months inside the Moose Lake center.

"I can't deny that I love him," she said. "He's a good person. I feel he's a good person. I found the good in him. And he's a great father."

Though she's no longer allowed inside the facility, Wood said she speaks to him almost daily on the phone. Richards also speaks daily to their daughter, now 2, Wood said. Their daughter also has visited him three times at Moose Lake.

Wood, who grew up in Moose Lake, was 22 when she started working at MSOP. She said she advanced to security counselor lead worker, where part of her role was to work one-on-one with some of the clients and have "healthy therapeutic relationships with them," including talking with them about their goals and playing games with them.

"It was to provide some sort of normalcy," Wood said. "It started out as talking, just being on the unit and interacting.

"And one thing led to another," she said, "and a relationship began."

She said the two were able to have sex because they found places away from the facility's cameras and "other staff weren't paying attention."


The two were discovered after Wood said she confided to another employee about the relationship. That employee went to administrators, Wood said.

Wood was fired in February 2009; Richards was sent back to prison for violating conditions of his parole.

He was returned to MSOP. He declined an interview request last week with the Duluth News Tribune.

Wood, 26, who says she now works as an administrative assistant and lives in the Twin Cities area, said Richards wants to be deported, something she supports. If that happened, she said she believes he could have a better relationship with their daughter in Trinidad. Wood said she probably wouldn't move there, but would allow her daughter to visit him there.

"At least she could go to see him once or twice a year and have a relationship with him, without it being in a room (at MSOP)," she said.

Wood said she would trust Richards with their daughter.

"He's not a pedophile, for one. .... Obviously, I wouldn't allow my daughter to go see him if I thought he was having sexually deviant fantasies," she said. "He cares. He has a heart. He is thoughtful, gives great advice. I'd bet you a million dollars that he's the smartest guy inside MSOP."

That's a far cry from testimony Richards' victims gave when he was sentenced for rape.


According to records, Richards' victims were strangers, picked as they were walking alone early in the morning or late at night. In the two cases where he succeeded with rape, he punched the women and forced them to the ground before sexually assaulting them. In the two cases of attempted rape, passers-by stopped him and he fled.

According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, one of his victims testified against him in 1997, saying she no longer felt safe and sometimes started crying when she thought about the attack.

"I wish he could somehow experience what we did," she said.

His crimes were so severe that it was clear he was a sexually dangerous person who needed to be committed to MSOP, said Susan Gaertner, the former Ramsey County attorney who petitioned for his commitment.

While her office was aware of the deportation order, Gaertner said it was irrelevant.

"One, the feds in our experience do not always follow through when they can deport someone," she said. "Two, we did not want to inflict Hayden Michael Richards on the women of Trinidad, nor did we want him sneaking back into the country to be a threat to Minnesotans."

After he was committed, Richards appealed, arguing that the purpose of MSOP is to treat sex offenders and release them back into the community. But because his release would be back to Trinidad, he argued that he wasn't a proper candidate for treatment.

The appeals court denied Richards' request, finding that because he was clearly a sexually dangerous person and psychopath, he met the statutory criteria for commitment.


They also noted that U.S. immigration can deport him back to Trinidad at any time.

But that doesn't appear likely to happen. Shawn Neudauer, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs, said for Richards to be deported, he'd have to be released from state custody first.

"U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement cannot effect deportation of criminal aliens who are currently in state custody until the state releases them from custody," he said in a statement.

Richards is in the custody of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, which runs MSOP.

Since it opened in the mid-1990s, no offender has ever been permanently released from the program.

Brandon Stahl writes for the Duluth News Tribune

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