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Purported expert on sex offenders charged with perjury

MINNEAPOLIS - The case of at least one sex offender is under review and a purported expert who testified in his case is facing felony perjury charges for allegedly inflating his credentials.

Michael Joseph Nilan, 55, of Woodbury, was charged Monday with three counts of perjury and three gross misdemeanor counts of practicing psychology without a license.

Nilan testified last summer that Edward V. Martin was not a "sexually dangerous person" or a "sexual psychopathic person," the legal standard prosecutors must establish to get sex offenders civilly committed for treatment after they finish their prison sentences.

After a prosecutor raised doubts about Nilan's credibility, his testimony was rescinded and the case was retried. The court is still deciding whether to commit Martin, who's been convicted of multiple counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Investigators say Nilan has testified in at least two other cases. The allegations have the potential to disrupt every case in which Nilan appeared.

"The court paid him to be their expert, and then he perpetrated a fraud," Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar said Tuesday.

An Anoka County prosecutor is handling the case because the Hennepin County prosecutor is expected to be a witness.

Klobuchar said an attorney in her office became suspicious after speaking with Nilan by phone and noticing he didn't use language typical of experts in clinical psychology.

Nilan's lawyer said he will fight the charges.

"There is a difference between an innocent mistake and an intent to mislead. Mr. Nilan certainly did not do the latter," defense attorney Paul Engh said.

According to the complaint, Nilan is not licensed by the Minnesota Board of Health to practice psychology in the state. He also gave conflicting testimony about his credentials in three cases.

In one case, he allegedly said he received a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Investigators say he never attended the university. In the other cases, he said he received a doctorate from Madison University, a correspondence school based in Gulfport, Miss. The school issued the degree after Nilan completed one graduate-level course, and it didn't require a dissertation. Milan is also alleged to have misrepresented his master's degree from the University of St. Thomas, where he earned a degree in counseling psychology.

The complaint says Nilan was paid $6,120 for his services in one case, but investigator Charlie Kelly of the Hennepin County sheriff's office said the county paid him more than $10,000 before it stopped issuing checks.

Hennepin County Chief Judge Lucy Wieland said Nilan's background was not thoroughly screened because defense attorneys selected him as a second expert witness.

The county contracts with private psychologists who are thoroughly checked and testify as "first examiners," but defense attorneys can request a second expert, or "second examiner," who acts as a court-appointed witness and is paid by the state.

"Traditionally the court isn't involved in second-guessing the defense attorney's choice," Wieland said. "This is a very unusual situation."

Nilan was hired when the court was inundated with a "tremendous" number of commitment actions against sexual predators, making second examiners difficult to find, she said.

In another case for which Nilan was charged, the offender was committed. It is not being reconsidered.

Wieland said Nilan worked on only a small number of cases in Hennepin County.

"I don't have the exact number, but it was just a handful," Wieland said.

Kelly said Monday's charges might just be the beginning.

"He's named a number of different counties that he's worked in," Kelly said. "I would suspect that, in the future, other counties are going to be filing on him."