BY JIM WALSH
PHOTOGRAPHY BY RICHARD FLEISCHMAN
In late 2003, 22-year-old University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin was abducted from a
Grand Forks mall parking lot. After a search that lasted five months, Sjodin’s body was found
near Crookston, not far from the home of Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., a Level III sex offender who
had recently been released after completing a 23-year prison term. Rodriguez was ultimately
convicted in federal court of Sjodin’s abduction and stabbing death, and now sits on death row
at the U.S. Penitentiary at Terre Haute, Indiana.
The same year the Sjodin case made headlines, UND alumnus Dan Gustafson was in the process of co-
founding anti-trust and class action firm Gustafson Gluek in downtown Minneapolis with his partner, Karla
Gluek. Little did he know that the case would eventually figure prominently in his professional life.
In 2006, “Dru’s Law” passed, a bill that dedicated the National Sex Offender Public Registry in her name.
In Minnesota, Gustafson says lawmakers adopted a “lock-‘em-up-and-throw-away-the-key” mentality for
hundreds in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, a high-security treatment protocol for criminals
deemed dangerous to the public.
“The Dru Sjodin case was horrible, and as a result of that there was a reaction to that: That’s never going
to happen again in Minnesota,” says Gustafson, 58, sitting in his downtown Minneapolis office surrounded
by photos of his family, including his three grown children and wife of 27 years. “So they went out and
looked at every Level III sex offender who was not committed, who were out living in the community in
various halfway houses, and they committed like 200 people that year. It just changed the political climate
in Minnesota. The political leadership said, ‘We’re never going to let somebody out who could be
committed.’ You can see it now in the legislature. Whenever there’s legislation that [seeks] to make
changes with the [MSOP] program, people just say, ‘Why would I support that?’”
Dan Gustafson doesn’t shy away from
representing society’s biggest pariahs