366 Jackson Street Suite 100 Saint Paul, Minnesota 55101

Hennepin, Minnesota at risk in porn case?

An associate of St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson, who often sues clergy members in sexual abuse cases, says Hennepin County and the state of Minnesota may be liable for actions of a foster parent convicted of producing and possessing child pornography.

Attorney Patrick Noaker, who works in Anderson’s firm, served notice to the county and state last month that three foster children and their parents may have a claim involving Gregg A. Larsen, a former special education teacher.

Noaker and the county disagree on whether there is evidence that someone with the county was aware that Larsen had a video camera in his bathroom when the children were living at his home.

Noaker said that in 2005, one of the children told someone with the county associated with the foster program about the camera.

“When [county and state employees] have actual knowledge that something’s wrong, they have a duty to step in and protect those kids,” he said. “It’s the subject of significant litigation.”

County officials said they had investigated and found no evidence that the county had been tipped off about Larsen. He is awaiting federal sentencing at the Sherburne County jail in Elk River.

“We had no knowledge of anything that would have been a matter of concern,” said Deborah Huskins, who oversees the county’s foster care program.

Noaker is handling suits against Larsen by three of four alleged victims. Two of them are former foster children, now ages 9 and 11. The other foster child, said to be victimized when he was a young teen, is now 22.

Noaker said that a lawsuit against the state and county isn’t inevitable but certainly possible. “We need to do more work and the county needs to do more work,” he said.

Hennepin County operates the foster program, which is funded by the state and operates under state guidelines.

Larsen, 49, who lived in Minneapolis, was licensed as a Hennepin County foster parent in 2000. He remained in the program, off and on, until the county moved to revoke his license this summer. Six children had been placed with him, Huskins said.

He began working for the St. Paul school district in 2003 and had been a special education teacher at Central High School.

Larsen was indicted last spring on federal charges of producing, distributing and possessing child pornography. He also was accused of coercing children to engage in sexual conduct.

Federal investigators found he had produced several sexually explicit images of children in 2006 and distributed similar images in 2009.

Noaker said Larsen pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of producing and possessing child porn. One of his guilty pleas involved one of the foster children, the attorney said.

Kevin Duchschere – 612-673-4455