Because he was in a position of authority of his student, the North Dakota Teacher of the Year has been accused of sex with an underage girl. Specifically, Aaron Knodel is charged with 5 different incidents of sexual contact with a 17 year old student. He taught at West Fargo High School where he sponsored and coached the Speech and Debate Teams. He was named Teacher of the Year in 2014. This award is given by North Dakota United, the teachers’ union.
He was charged in North Dakota. But had this happened in Minnesota, it would be charged as having sex with a person while in “a position of authority.” A person in a “position of authority” can be, for example, a teacher, a coach, a mentor, a family friend who takes a child on overnight trips, a tutor, a probation officer, a police officer, etc. If you have been accused of a Minnesota sex crime, you will need a tough attorney to help you.
In Minnesota, the age of consent for sexual contact is 16. However, if a person is a position of authority over a person who is 16 or 17 years old, then a person must be 18 years old to be able to legally consent to sexual contact. So, for example, if a 17 year old softball player has sexual contact with her 35 year old coach, that would felony criminal sexual conduct under Minnesota Sex Laws. That is because the coach is considered by the law to be in a “position of authority” over the 17 year old player since he coaches her. Because her will could be overborne by the nature of their player-coach relationship, the Minnesota criminal sexual conduct law deem the player incapable of giving consent to sexual contact. Similarly, in the North Dakota case which was just announced, because Aaron Knodel was a teacher, the Teacher of the Year was in a “position of authority” over the person he supposedly had sex with. Thus, if he had sex with her, even if she were old enough to otherwise consent, it would be illegal sex under a “position of authority” law because she was under 18 years old.
In this case Knodel has maintained his innocence. His lawyer says that he passed a lie detector test. Generally such tests are not admissible in court. The incidents supposedly happened about 5 years ago, so both sides will have difficulty proving that did or did not happen so long ago. Old allegations are often a problem in Minnesota criminal sexual conduct cases. Here, Knodel faces charges that could net him several years in prison under the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines. The exact sentence would depend on of what exactly he was convicted. The specific charges are not clear in what has been made public. In Minnesota, however, a teacher having sexual penetration with a 17 year old student would constitute third degree criminal sexual conduct. A conviction for one incident of third degree criminal sexual conduct, based on the Defendant being in a position of authority over the Complainant or “victim,” carries a sentence of 36 months in prison, stayed, combined with local jail time and sex offender registration, etc. If you have been charged with a Minnesota sex crime, contact Keller Law Offices right away at 952-913-1421 to preserve your freedom, your job, and your life.