Tim Pawlenty's Willie Horton?

Minnesota governor pardoned a sex offender who allegedly went on to abuse others

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Presidential hopeful and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty pardoned a sex offender who went on to abuse other underage girls, the Minneapolis Star Tribune's Pat Doyle reports. It's the kind of episode no GOP contender wants on his record, and some are wondering if the revelations will strangle Pawlenty's 2012 aspirations in the crib.

Jeremy Geifer was 19 when he was convicted of having sex with his 14-year-old girlfriend. After Geifer served 45 days in jail, he remained with the girl, and they married two years later. Geifer sought the pardon several years later, and a panel including Pawlenty granted it, because the crime "involved sexual conduct between two people who became husband and wife, maintained a long-term marriage, had a family together."

This month, charges were filed against Geifer, now 36, accusing him of six years of abuse of a girl who is now 17. "Giefer was charged with five counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, five counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of incest," Doyle reports.

  • Pawlenty Ran as a Tough-on-Crime Pol, Nick Pinto writes at The Blotter. "As governor, Pawlenty positioned himself as especially tough on sex crimes, advocating for a doubling of sex-offender prison terms and presiding over a dramatic increase in incarcerated sex-offenders. A year ago, the governor was grandstanding over the question of whether jailed sex offenders should have televisions."
  • Pawlenty Didn't Enable A Crime, Slate's Dave Weigel notes. This isn't like "Mike Huckabee's pardon of a man who later killed a police officer... In this case, he and two panelists were impressed that Giefer remained faithful to the woman whom he'd started a relationship with when she was 14, so they pardoned him. The important difference between Huckabee/Dukakis and Pawlenty: Giefer was already out of prison when he was pardoned, so the governor's action didn't enable a new crime."
  • Not as Bad as Huckabee, Philip Klein argues at the American Spectator. "Over the course of his 10 and a half years as governor, Huckabee granted a staggering 1,033 clemencies... That was more than double the combined 507 that were granted during the 17 and a half years of his three predecessors: Bill Clinton, Frank White, and Jim Guy Tucker. ... So, clearly, Pawlenty is on much stronger ground defending his decision against Huckabee's record. That said, should Huckabee run, he'd likely exploit Pawlenty's pardon to respond to attacks against his own record. And even if it isn't an apt comparison, it may help Huckabee muddy the waters a bit for voters who don't pay much attention to details."
  • Democrats Are Pushing This Story, Weigel continues. "For what it's worth, I found this story on my usual search of stories about 2012 candidates; after I posted it, a number of reporters noted that the DNC was pushing the story today. If I encounter a story because a partisan is trying to get it covered, I say so; in this case it's obviously newsy that Democrats want this out there."
  • Symbolic, Politico's Ben Smith says that it's "Worth noting here that Giefer was pardoned after his release from jail, to clear his name, so the issue is basically symbolic.”
  • Official Statement from the Pawlenty Camp: "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."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.