- Associated Press - Saturday, October 29, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A former flower shop owner who sexually assaulted and tortured a Texas man in the basement of his Wayne store has been granted parole.

Roger Van, 69, was granted parole Friday, the Lincoln Journal Star reported (https://bit.ly/2eTibal ).

Van has been in prison since 2003 after being convicted of sexual assault, false imprisonment and other counts. He was sentenced to up to 30 years for sexually assaulting, torturing and holding a Texas man captive in the basement of his Wayne flower shop in 2001.

Van had argued that the man had consented to being held in a small cell, beaten, bound and branded with a hot iron during an arrangement they made in online exchanges.

After the first day, the man said he wanted out, but Van refused to believe him. The man eventually escaped with the help of a flower shop employee who initially participated in the assault, but later backed out. The employee spent about six months in jail for assault.

Before Van’s sentencing, he fled to California, adding an additional conviction of failure to appear and another year to his sentence.

Nebraska Board of Parole member Teresa Bittinger told Van she voted to release him mainly because she wanted officials to be able to monitor him. If he had reached his mandatory release date in 2018, he would be subject to no oversight.

“We want to watch you as long as we can, and make sure you’re successful,” she said.

As a condition of his parole, Van must register as a sex offender and wear an electronic monitoring device.

Van won’t be released from the Community Corrections Center in Lincoln until he’s been approved to live in an apartment complex that allows sex offenders.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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