Judge revokes sex offender’s probation after lewd conduct at Rosedale Center

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A St. Paul man with a history of sex-related offenses was sentenced to two years in prison by a judge who found he violated his probation in November by drinking alcohol, masturbating at a store at Rosedale Center in Roseville and getting booted out of sex-offender treatment.

In February, Phillip Jeffrey Ethen was put on five years of probation after pleading guilty to attempted second-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a 14-year-old girl in St. Paul in July 2022, court documents show.

Phillip Jeffrey Ethen (Courtesy of the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office)

It was a guideline sentence handed down by Ramsey County District Judge Jacob Kraus, who stayed a two-year prison sentence and gave Ethen no additional jail time beyond the 206 days he already served.

Last week, Ethen, 42, was back in front of the judge for a contested probation revocation hearing on the November allegations.

Ethen admitted that he was drunk on Nov. 6 at Rosedale Center and that he was kicked out of sex-offender treatment three days later because of it.

Ramsey County Assistant Attorney Cory Tennison told the judge that although one violation was enough to support revoking probation, the state would move forward to put on the record that Ethen also broke the law.

Tennison called Roseville police officer Connor Hallgren to testify. Hallgren said he was working off-duty in full uniform at Rosedale Center that day and responded to Francesca’s, a women’s clothing store, on a report of a man masturbating inside a changing room.

The officer said he saw Ethen through a halfway open curtain lying on the ground with his pants halfway down and his hand on his penis. Ethen, who smelled of alcohol, admitted that he stole two pairs of underwear from Victoria’s Secret before going to Francesca’s.

Past record

Katie Beckstrom, Ethen’s probation officer, gave a rundown of his past criminal related behavior, which dates back to 2012 when he was convicted of interfering with another’s privacy.

Ethen was convicted of indecent exposure-engaging in lewd conduct twice in 2017. In one case, he was caught peering into a neighbor’s window while masturbating. At the time, he acknowledged to officers that he’d been arrested for similar behavior in the past and that he’d been “watching” his neighbor weekly, court records say.

He said at the time that his actions were fueled by an excess of “sexual energy that he (didn’t) know how to deal with properly.”

In 2018, he was seen masturbating in public inside the St. Paul Hotel. He reportedly paid his bill and left the establishment after a security guard kicked him out, but police caught up with him after receiving a similar report shortly thereafter from the Intercontinental Hotel on Kellogg Boulevard, the criminal complaint says. He was convicted of one count of indecent exposure.

In last year’s criminal sexual conduct case, Ethen approached two girls at a fast-food restaurant in the 1500 block of Rice Street and asked them to follow him outside. They did, thinking they were going to get marijuana from him. There, he unzipped his pants and put his hand down a girl’s shirt. They left, and asked someone to call the police.

“Over the past 10 years, (Ethen) has continued to offend, often while on probation and in treatment,” Beckstrom told Judge Kraus at the revocation hearing.

She described Ethen as an untreated sex offender and a public safety risk, and said Ramsey County probation recommended that his stayed prison sentence be executed.

County prosecutor Tennison argued that treatment for Ethen can “most effectively be provided if confined. Local jail and probation has been tried with the defendant many times. It is reckless to think that it will work again.”

Ethen’s defense attorney, Somah Yarney, disagreed. She said that a two-year sentence for Ethen, after he received his 251 days of custody credit, would not give him enough time to complete sex-offender treatment. She asked Kraus to give him time in the workhouse, where he could receive outpatient treatment.

“He is a person who needs services and acknowledges that he needs services,” she said. “And prison can make the problem worse.”

Kraus told Ethen that he put him on probation in February consistent with the plea agreement “to see how well you did.” He added, “I don’t think I even had all the information in front of me at sentencing that I now have about you.”

Kraus said he is concerned about what appears to be escalating behavior from Ethen. “And that it appears as though the best place for Mr. Ethen to get at least a start of treatment is in the (Department of Corrections),” he said. “I also feel like public safety is a grave, grave concern to me if Mr. Ethen stays out.”

After confinement, Ethen will be on conditional release for 10 years.

Because of Ethen’s past convictions, state law allowed Ramsey County prosecutors to enhance an indecent exposure charge against him to a gross misdemeanor level relating to the Rosedale Center incident. He is also charged with disorderly conduct.

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