Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) -- A lay preacher, who won a legal battle to preach his religious views inside the popular family attraction Bentleyville, is a registered sex offender.
Given the enormous publicity surrounding the court battle between Jankowski and the city of Duluth...this comes as a surprise.
We're talking about an eight year old criminal case...in another county.
It did take the Northland’s NewsCenter awhile to track down and confirm all the details...but what we found is quite shocking.
“Give your life to Jesus. Jesus said we must be born again...to enter the kingdom of God..”
Most nights you will find 38- year- old Steven Ray Jankowski wearing a sandwich board emblazoned with quotes, holding his bible and preaching at Bentleyville tour of lights in Duluth.
The Saginaw man first made news in Duluth last year when he went to court to fight the City of Duluth for the right to preach inside the Bentleyville attraction.
"It was not intended by Bentleyville to allow others to use Bentleyville as a forum to promote their own parochial goals, which in this case, would be the dissemination of religious beliefs,” said Ken Butler, Attorney for Bentleyville.
It's a battle the preachers won twice, the most recent victory coming this holiday season.
Subsequent to winning that court battle we've learned that one of the preachers, Steven Jankowski, has a criminal history.
He is currently required, by law, to register as a sex offender in connection with a case in Cass County in 2004.
Charges were brought against Jankowski when he worked as a teacher at the Pine River-Backus School.
He lived in Walker, Minnesota at the time.
The complaint, filed in Cass County District court, alleges that Jankowski hugged and kissed a 13 year old student, took her to his home and touched her inappropriately including, according to the complaint, the victim told police Jankowski placed his hand inside her underwear.
He was charged with gross misdemeanor endangerment of a child and 4th degree criminal sexual conduct, which is a felony.
But as part of a plea agreement, the sexual conduct charge was dropped leaving child endangerment on his record.
Jankowski was sentenced to serve 10 days in jail, fined, and given three years supervised probation.
Jankowski was also required to register as a sex offender and supply a DNA sample.
Wednesday night at Bentleyville we asked Jankowski to comment on his criminal conviction.
"You can talk to my attorneys; my attorneys will answer any questions. You can talk to them."
We did contact Jankowski's lawyer and in response, attorney Nate Kellum, sent an email saying "due to continuing litigation Jankowski will have no statement.”
Kellum later sent another email basically saying the city is trying to defame his client because they lost in court.
The message said in part...
“It is sad that the City of Duluth would set out to disparage the reputation of a citizen who only wants to share his views in public where he has every right to be....If everyone who made a mistake was forced to give up their constitutional rights, no one would be able to exercise them.”
We do want to make it clear that the city did not provide the information we obtained about Mr. Jankowski.
A spokesperson with St. Louis County told us that the status of Jankowski's probation on the Child endangerment conviction is that he successfully completed that probation in 2007.
According to Duluth authorities, Jankowski is currently listed as a compliant, registered sex offender and must continue his registration until January of 2015.