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Local sex offender faces strict rules

Bryton Kraft

Local law enforcement didn't want a juvenile sex offender living in New Richmond, but it turns out there wasn't a choice.

Bryton P. Kraft, 16, now resides on Brigetta Drive in New Richmond. He was convicted of intent to commit rape in April in San Diego, Calif. The victim was an adult female group home worker.

Since that crime, Kraft has moved in with his grandparents, who are his legal guardians.

Local authorities weren't aware the registered sex offender, who had moved into the community at the end of September, was here until the grandparents applied with the state Department of Corrections to have Kraft's case transferred from California to Wisconsin.

A home evaluation of Kraft was conducted Nov. 9, to help officials determine if they would accept the transfer. Members of the St. Croix County's "Sex Offender Core Team" (a committee of law enforcement and county personnel) met Nov. 13 to discuss the findings of the report and the transfer request.

Based on the evaluation report, and information privy to law enforcement personnel about Kraft's past, New Richmond Police Chief Mark Samelstad said the countywide group voted unanimously that they would "not accept the transfer."

According to a California report, Kraft was determined to be a "high-risk" offender who is likely to re-offend. Other factors from the individual's past also played a role in the decision, although specifics of any prior criminal activity or evidence of previous anti-social behavior cannot be disclosed due to Kraft's juvenile status.

After receiving the local decision, Wisconsin officials had some bad news. According to federal law, Samelstad said, city and county officials couldn't keep Kraft from moving to New Richmond. Juvenile offenders, it turns out, are allowed to move in with their legal guardians, wherever that may be.

With his hands tied, Samelstad said he decided the next best thing he could do was inform the public that a high-risk juvenile sex offender was living locally. Wisconsin allows for community notification concerning a juvenile sex offender if the individual is deemed a danger to the public.

"I had serious concerns with Mr. Kraft living in this city," Samelstad commented.

A community meeting was held Nov. 27 and a good crowd was on hand to find out more information and ask questions.

Presenters for the evening were Amy Jain, sex offender registration specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections; Alicia Weix, juvenile supervisor with the DOC; Leslie Martin, juvenile supervisor assigned to meet with Kraft on a weekly or more frequent basis; St. Croix County Sheriff John Shilts; St. Croix County Assistant District Attorney Mike Nieskes; and Samelstad.

Samelstad set the groundwork for the evening by reading the community sex offender notification that was issued several weeks ago.

"This notification is not intended to increase fear; rather, it is our belief that an informed public is a safer public," Samelstad told the crowd. "Sex offenders have always lived in our communities; but it wasn't until 2005 Wisconsin Act 5 was enacted that law enforcement is able to share juvenile information with the community. Citizen abuse of this information to threaten, intimidate or harass registered sex offenders will not be tolerated."

Samelstad said the police will be keeping a close eye on Kraft, but encouraged the public to report any potential violations of the offender's parole requirements.

"If there are violations, he will be held accountable," Weix explained.

Kraft has about 57 specific rules he must follow to stay in compliance with the terms of his release from custody.

Kraft's curfew runs from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily. If he is not in his grandparents' home during those hours, he has to be accompanied by an adult.

He cannot be in or near places where children congregate, such as parks, schools, day care centers, churches and more.

Kraft will also be required to meet with his juvenile parole officer at least once a week, and follow through with court-ordered sex offender treatment.

His Internet use will be monitored and he's not allowed to have overnight guests unless they are pre-approved.

Kraft must also let the authorities know where he lives, where he's working, where he volunteers, where he's going to school and what Internet names and passwords he is using.

Kraft will be outfitted with an electronic monitoring system, to help ensure that he remains where he's supposed to and that he stays away from areas he's not allowed, Weix reported.

Kraft is currently attending high school online. If he asked to be educated by the New Richmond School District, District Administrator Morrie Veilleux said the registered sex offender would not be allowed inside any of the district buildings. The district would instead figure out an alternate way to provide the education Kraft is due, he said.

Even with all the safeguards in place, law enforcement and corrections officials urged the public to educate themselves about Kraft and be vigilant when they are out in public.

"With knowledge comes power," Nieskes said. "Yes, it does affect your life, that's the unfortunate part of it. You don't get to pick who lives next to you."

Jain urged parents to talk to their kids about appropriate touch and other personal safety topics. She also suggested people practice "protective behaviors," especially in the evening hours. As an example, she said people shouldn't take a walk along the same route and at the same time every night. Such patterns could make a person a target of a criminals.

Sheriff Shilts called the community alert a "very rare event" and the public should stand up and take notice, even if people don't know all of the specific details of the offender's past.

"This isn't easy for anyone," Shilts said. "We're doing our best to deal with the hand that we've been dealt."

The goal is for Kraft to complete his treatment and eventually become a productive member of society, Jain said. Studies indicate that if a sex offender can eventually have a stable family and work life, along with appropriate treatment, the chance for re-offending declines.

Kraft is a white male weighing about 140 pounds. He stands 5'6", has blonde hair and blue eyes.

Samelstad reminded the crowd that Kraft is the subject of the notice but is not wanted by the police at this time. He said people cannot harass or bother the offender or his grandparents when they are out in public.

Kraft is scheduled to remain on supervised parole through 2017. After that, he will be required to register as a sex offender for 15 more years, according to Samelstad.