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Man collects $6,000 for jail worker's mistake

St. Croix County's insurance company has paid $6,000 to a man erroneously identified by jail personnel as a registered sex offender.

In March 2006 a jail log released to local media indicated that Jeremy P. Gruwell, 22, River Falls, was booked into the St. Croix County Jail. The reason for the booking was given as "sex offender registration."

Sheriff Dennis Hillstead said Gruwell had been ordered by his probation agent to report to the jail to provide a DNA sample.

The department had been getting so many sex offenders coming in to register that the deputy recorded Gruwell's information incorrectly, said Hillstead.

"It was a pure mistake on (the officer's) part," said the sheriff.

A correction was subsequently printed in a community newspaper that published the information.

In June 2006, Gruwell, 1010 Sunset Lane, River Falls, submitted a claim to the county saying reports prepared by Sheriff's Department personnel were "false, erroneous and defamatory." He asked for $50,000 for "pain, emotional distress and damage to reputation."

The county rejected that claim, and in January 2007 Gruwell filed a civil lawsuit against the Sheriff's Department and the county.

According to the civil complaint, in March 2006 and at other times Gruwell had "official contracts" with the county and county officers.

But, according to the complaint, Gruwell "is not now, nor has he ever been, a registered sex offender as that term is defined by Wisconsin Statute or by its plain, understood meaning."

Trial was set for April 28, but the parties reached a settlement agreement earlier that month.

The release of claims signed by Gruwell and his attorney last month stipulates that payment of the $6,000 "is not to be construed as an admission of any liability whatsoever by or on behalf of (the county, the Sheriff's Department or Wisconsin Municipal Mutual Insurance Company), by whom all liability is expressly denied."