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System lets sex offender slip through the cracks

(KFYR)
Published: Nov. 19, 2019 at 2:17 PM CST
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Many parents are wondering why a man who seemed to fit the criminal background of being on the sex offender registry was not on it.

And if that's the case, who else is slipping through the cracks?

"I think she thought I might have been inappropriately touching the kids."

Monday marked the 76th day Michael Brandstrom has been locked inside the county jail in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

He won't be getting out anytime soon after admitting last week to kidnapping a four-year-old girl who was wandering around his Bluffs Apartment Complex in September, and taking nude photos of her with his phone.

"That poor girl will never get her innocence back ever. It's nauseating," said a neighbor.

Neighbors heard he was arrested years ago for a child sex crime in North Dakota, but wondered why he wasn't on the sex offender registry?

Investigator Jon Hilz with Pottawattamie County Sheriff's Office said, "It's a pretty acceptable practice that if you have to register in one state, you'd have to register in another."

Hilz has spent the last four years making sure the county's 250 registered sex offenders followed the rules about where they live and work and visit.

"You just want to prevent further offenses on folks by registered sex offenders," said Hilz.

Before the Iowa kidnapping, Investigator Hilz never had to check on Michael Brandstrom, even though he had been convicted in another state of terrorizing a little girl.

He wasn't required to register in Iowa or North Dakota or anywhere for reasons that, to this day, baffle investigators.

Eight-years ago, Detective Conley with the Grand Forks Police Department brought Michael Brandstrom into an interview room to get some answers.

The suspect was 20-years-old.

Officers had received complaints that Michael Brandstrom and his friends were inappropriately touching girls on the swing-set and monkey bars at a trailer court playground.

For more than an hour, Michael Brandstrom wrestled with his answers and the apparent truth. Eventually he told Detective Conley this about his 6-year-old victim.

"I'm sorry for tickling the little girl's vagina and that I deeply regret it."

In November 2012 Michael Brandstrom pleaded guilty to terrorizing.

The judge sentenced him to three years supervised probation, she did not require him to register as an offender against children, even though terrorizing is one of the crimes that fits the requirements.

Two weeks later, Brandstrom was found with child pornography on his computer in his bedroom, numerous pictures of female minors depicting sexual conduct.

His probation revoked and another judge eventually sent him to prison for three years.

He also ordered Brandstrom to complete sex offender treatment while in prison and yet, he still didn't have to register as a sex offender.

Those in Iowa who became Michael Brandstrom's new neighbors don't get it. If you're supposed to take a sex offender class while locked up, logically speaking, shouldn't you have to register as a sex offender, too?

Legal experts say judges in North Dakota are allowed to deviate from the registration requirement under certain circumstances.

Douglas County attorney Don Kleine said: "I don't think our judges have that type of discretion. If someone is convicted of a certain crime, you're forced to register as a sex offender."

If states continue to operate with a different set of standards, how is the public supposed to know if they have dangerous neighbors?

while Michael Brandstrom went from this North Dakota playground to the one in the middle of his Iowa apartment complex, there's one big difference between sentences and the judge's order.

With his recent conviction for taking nude photos of a 4-year-old, Iowa law requires Michael Brandstrom to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

The two North Dakota judges involved in this case are both retired now.