After almost 20 years, justice is no closer for the alleged victims of Shawn Sullivan, a man accused of raping a 14-year-old girl in the 1990s and molesting two others.
On June 20, a British High Court refused to extradite Sullivan—who holds both U.S. and Irish citizenship—unless prosecuting attorneys waived the possibility of enrolling Sullivan in Minnesota's sex offender program.
British Judges Alan Moses and David Eady said they would have extradited Sullivan, now 43, were it not for Minnesota's "draconian" sex offender program, according to an Associated Press report published in the Washington Post.
Sullivan is charged with two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct in Dakota County and two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct in Hennepin County for crimes police say occurred in 1993 and 1994, respectively.
The first series of alleged abuses took place in Eagan, where police say Sullivan molested two female relatives, then 11 years old, while they were staying with their grandmother.
The next case dates to January of 1994, when a 14-year-old met Sullivan while visiting a friend who worked at Rapid Oil Change in Bloomington. The two went for a ride in Sullivan's white Ford Bronco. At some point, Sullivan parked in the vicinity of Nesbitt Avenue and Old Shakopee Road, then allegedly plied the girl with vodka and peach schnapps until she passed out. When she came to, she found Sullivan having sex with her.
Facing criminal charges, Sullivan allegedly fled to Ireland, the Associated Press reports. Two years ago, the law finally caught up with him in London, where he’d been living under the name “O’Suilleabhain.”
British High Court Judges Moses and Eady endorsed Sullivan’s appeal against extradition after Hennepin County Attorney Michael O. Freeman and Dakota County Attorney James C. Backstrom refused to guarantee that Sullivan wouldn’t be placed in Minnesota’s civil commitment program.
Minnesota’s civil commitment program provides for the indefinite detention of people found to be “sexually psychopathic" or "sexually dangerous.” The judges called commitment to such a program “flagrant denial” of human rights, noting that offenders need not be mentally ill nor does the crime have to be recent. In some cases, they said, some of the accused have been committed without even being convicted of a crime.
Both the Hennepin County and Dakota County Attorney Offices expressed disappointment with the decision and pledged to pursue criminal prosecution should Sullivan ever return to the United States. Warrants for Sullivan’s arrest will remain active.
The victims' attorney, Michael Hall III, said his clients' only recourse would be the civil courts. Hall filed a suit against Sullivan in January.