Sex offender released from prison 17 years early by mistake

Published: Mar. 7, 2023 at 8:39 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The Iowa Department of Corrections and the Iowa Board of Parole allowed Mario Goodson, who is a repeated sex offender with a mandatory minimum, to receive work release with parole 17 years early.

According to Iowa law, inmates with mandatory minimums aren’t eligible for parole. However, the Waterloo man earned parole and walked out of a prison for two days before authorities realized a mistake occurred. The Iowa Department of Corrections didn’t release information to the public and it isn’t clear if lawmakers were aware of the issue officials labeled as “HUGE PROBLEM”.

Nicholas Crawford, who is the communications director for the Iowa Department of Corrections, declined to call our KCRG-TV9 i9 Investigative Team back about the case, provide information about the staff member responsible for the error and ignored our request for an on-camera interview.

However, he said the error occurred after the inmate went through a unique appeal process and the department wrongly calculated his sentence in a written statement. Crawford also said a review of its procedures found no other issues.

“The IDOC conducted an audit of our offender management system and confirmed no further issues persisted,” he wrote in an e-mail. “The department also added additional steps to our re-entry procedures to make certain a situation like this does not occur again.”

Community Based Corrections Concerned over Parole Decisions

Emails show directors within Community Based Correction Services, who oversee parole and work release programs, have a different opinion on the parole system than the Department of Corrections.

“Just sharing as another example of how f’d up the system is becoming,” said Kenneth Kolthoff, the Director of Community Based Corrections for northwest Iowa to other officials across the state.

Emails, which our i9 Investigative Team received through a public records request, show officials within Kolthoff’s district waited for answers from the Department of Corrections.

“What do I do with him since we aren’t getting an answer?” wrote one parole officer assigned to Goodson.

That parole officer, along with Director Kolthoff, questioned how Goodson was approved to get released without taking sexual abuse treatment.

“How come this 2-time sex offender who committed such a violent act was not put in sex offender treatment prior to even being considered for release,” Kolthoff said.

Records, which our i9 Investigative Team requested, show Goodson would later complete those treatments in prison.

The Department makes recommendations to the Iowa Board of Parole for parole or work release....
The Department makes recommendations to the Iowa Board of Parole for parole or work release. The Iowa Board of Parole supports or deny the recommendation. Community Based Corrections oversees parole and work release programs.(Ethan Stein)

Police said Goodson unlawfully entered Annie Thomas’ home, punched her until her nose bled, broke a bathroom mirror with Thomas’ head, hit her with pepper spray then coerced her into having sex. According to police, Thomas’ had viable injuries on her face and blood was found on towels and the walls.

According to court documents, Goodson was found guilty of sexual abuse, domestic abuse causing bodily injury and burglary. He was sentenced to 25 years, with 85% of the sentence being a mandatory minimum.

Thomas said the most difficult part of the trial was listening to her son on the 911 calls. She said was scared, confused and frustrated when she heard Goodson was released.

“I spent the whole night crying,” Thomas said. “Because I really thought he was getting out and I didn’t know how that was possible.”

She said she continues to wake up in the middle of the night due to the trauma she faced over the years.

Thomas wasn’t notified Goodman was up for parole, which is required by state law, according to emails our KCRGTV9 i9 Investigative Team received from an open records request. She said she heard after speaking with her daughter on the phone, who got a notification from a crime victim website.

Sally Kreamer, who is the Deputy Director for the Department of Corrections said this occurred because the county attorney didn’t register the victims. She described it as “an ongoing issue”.

Black Hawk County Attorney Brian Williams (D), who had years to register Thomas because Goodson wasn’t eligible for parole, said he was surprised and concerned Goodson was released from prison. He said the parole is illegal, but was confused about the rationale for releasing Goodson regardless of the mistake.

Williams said the nature of the offense and the defendant’s past criminal history should have persuaded the Board of Parole to deny Goodson from getting out of prison.

“We’re dealing with somebody who had a prior, which is the basis for the 85% because there was prior sexual abuse,” Williams said. “These are some of the most dangerous people in our communities.”

According to Iowa law, the Board of Parole is supposed to consider around 15 factors when making decisions. Those include a person’s previous criminal record, the nature of the offense, recidivism record, length of time serves, convictions or behavior, past performance on parole or work release, history of drug use, risk assessments, participation in institutional programs and habitual misconduct and psychiatric evaluations.

Court documents show Goodson was guilty around 30 different times for a variety of crimes including for violation of parole. Emails, which our KCRG-TV9 i9 Investigative Team received, show the department recommended Goodman for work release because he was “moderate-moderate/high” risk. According to disciplinary hearing documents, Goodson also participated in a group fight with about seven other inmates a year before he was up for parole.

Nicholas Davis, who is the Chair and Spokesperson for the Iowa Board of Parole, said three members of the Iowa Board of Parole approved Goodson for work release, but there aren’t any physical case files. He repeatedly ignored requests from our KCRG-TV9 i9 Investigative Team for an on-camera interview.

Davis said Goodson was taken back into DOC custody quickly.