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Roger Olsen

Other Minnesota Exonerations
In March 2006, 40-year-old Roger Olsen was charged with 12 counts of sexual misconduct in Houston County, Minnesota after his former stepdaughter accused him of sexually molesting her several years earlier.
Prior to trial, at the urging of the prosecution, the judge barred the defense from introducing evidence that years earlier, the girl had accused Olsen’s then juvenile son of sexually assaulting her. The judge, however, said that he would perhaps allow the evidence to be introduced if the prosecution argued that the girl’s only source of knowledge to describe the sexual acts was Olsen’s assaults.

Olsen rejected an offer from the prosecution to plead guilty and serve less than three months in jail. He went to trial in Houston County District Court in August 2006.

The girl, who was then 12 years old, testified that in 2002 and 2003, when she was in the third and fourth grade, Olsen sexually assaulted her.

Olsen and the girl’s mother were divorced in May 2004. By the fall of that year, the girl’s mother was living with Brian Wise. In the spring of 2006, the girl told Wise that Olsen had sexually assaulted her.

Wise testified that after he became involved with the girl’s mother, he became concerned that the girl may have been sexually abused because her knowledge of sexual matters was greater than what he believed a 10-to-12-year-old girl should know.  Wise testified that in February 2006, he asked the girl on a couple of occasions whether anyone had harmed her and that on February 22, 2006, while walking in a shopping mall, the girl said that Olsen had sexually assaulted her on multiple occasions.

Danielle Swedberg, a Houston County child protection social worker interviewed the girl and she repeated her accounts of multiple sexual assaults and being forced to watch pornographic movies.

Olsen testified and denied sexually assaulting the girl. He testified that he believed the girl was fabricating her claims because he divorced her mother.

In closing argument to the jury, the prosecutor hailed Wise as a hero who persuaded the girl to finally open up and relate how she had been assaulted.  The prosecutor also told the jury that the girl’s only source of knowledge of sexual matters was her experience of assaults by Olsen. Despite the judge’s pre-trial ruling regarding that type of argument, Olsen’s defense attorney did not object and did not seek to re-open the case and present evidence that the girl had previously accused Olsen’s son of sexually assaulting her.

On August 31, 2006, Olsen was convicted on all 12 counts. He was sentenced to 24 years in prison.

In July 2007, nearly a year later, the Houston County District Attorney’s Office informed Olsen that the girl had made allegations of sexual assault against Wise—who by that time had broken up with the girl’s mother. Her allegations were almost identical, word for word, as her descriptions of the alleged assaults by Olsen.

The girl said that Wise had assaulted her when she was in the fifth and sixth grade. The prosecution noted that when she testified in Olsen’s trial, she said she was entering the seventh grade, which meant that if her accusations were true, at the time Wise was portrayed as a hero by the prosecution during Olsen’s trial, he was simultaneously sexually abusing the girl.

The prosecution also noted that Wise (like Olsen before him) had denied sexually assaulting the girl and said that he believed the girl had concocted the claims because he broke up with the girl’s mother.

On January 2, 2008, Olsen’s conviction was vacated and he was granted a new trial because the complainant’s testimony was “inherently unreliable.” The judge ruled that the “newly discovered evidence does raise the possibility that the victim was not telling the truth in regard to the alleged abused committed by (Olsen) or by Mr. Wise.”

On September 3, 2008, the prosecution dismissed the charges and Olsen was released.

In 2016, the state of Minnesota agreed to pay Olsen $475,000 in compensation.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 3/8/2016
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2003
Sentence:24 years
Age at the date of reported crime:37
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No