Saturday, February 6, 2010

Female teacher caught with 16 year old student sentenced to 5 months jail, decade of probation

(Original Post 12-28-08)
Melissa Diana Koehn, a 30 year old teacher, was charged with 4th degree criminal sexual conduct by the Dakota County Attorney's Office Tuesday. The West St. Paul St. Croix Lutheran High School social studies teacher was booked Sunday and charged Tuesday with 3 counts of CSC. Koehn was released on $10,000 bail after undergoing a hearing under Judge Mary Theisen.

Under Minnesota law, a person as young as 16 is old enough to consent to a sexual relationship. The law, however, prohibits a teacher, coach or person in a position of authority over a young person to have sexual contact with someone age 16 or 17.

This is the sixth time in 10 years that a teacher or coach in Dakota County has been charged with criminal sexual contact involving a student, said Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom.

An Apple Valley police officer investigating a suspicious vehicle on December 20 found Koehn and the victim kissing. The teenage girl was still wearing her school jacket, and the officer turned the teen over to her parents while a detective investigated the case.

Koehn taught and coached the girl during the 2007-8 school year, and stayed in the girl's bedroom after taking a leave of absence from the school for professional development. The victim and Koehn began going to movies and shopping, with the parents of the victim letting the woman slep over at their daughter's room on occasion. Koehn's permanent address is in Kenosha, WI.

Koehn acknowledged taking part in some sexual encounters in that bedroom. The AOC in Minnesota is 16, but increases to 18 when a teacher, coach or other person in a position of authority has a relationship with a teen.

She also acknowledged she still "exercised some authority" over the student, according to charges. When interviewed by police, the student referred to her as "Ms. Koehn."

This is the sixth time in 10 years that a teacher or coach in Dakota County has been charged with criminal sexual contact involving a student, said Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom.

Koehn made her initial court appearance [December 23] morning before Judge Mary Theisen, who set bail at $50,000 or $10,000 with conditions. Koehn's next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 9 in Hastings.

Gene Pfeifer, president of St. Croix Lutheran, said that Koehn taught 10th and 11th grade social studies and coached girls junior varsity basketball for the past 7 years. He also said that the did not know about the sexual misconduct, and that "We don't condone any type of activity like this on the part of any employee or past employee of the school. We are cooperating with the authorities in their investigation."

(Update 11-21-09) After a two day trial and 3 1/2 hours of deliberation, a Dakota County jury has found Koehn guilty of three counts of 4th degree criminal sexual conduct. The jury found that the victim's vulnerability was an aggravating factor, meaning that Koehn faces prison instead of the guideline sentence maximum of a year in jail. The guilty verdict happened Friday, November 20.

Under Minnesota law, sexual contact with a 16- or 17-year-old is a felony if the perpetrator is at least four years older and in a position of authority over a teen. Koehn, who began an unofficial mentoring relationship with the girl her sophomore year, had previously coached her in basketball, and the teen referred to her as "Ms. Koehn" from the witness stand.

Koehn's trial opened Wednesday with prosecutors asking the teen whether she had sexual contact with Koehn, her former history teacher. The student, now 18, denied that anything sexual had occurred, and then, when pressed, said she couldn't remember.

Assistant Dakota County Attorney Larry Clark played audiotapes which belied the victim's testimony, but Koehn's defense attorney Richard Ohlenberg said the encounters, which took place during a leave of absence by Koehn, were not a manipulation of a position of trust and that they were limited to kissing and social contact.

Dakota County District Court Judge Robert King will formally sentence Koehn on February 5.

(Update 2-6-10) Koehn was formally sentenced to 5 months in jail and 10 years probation by Judge Robert King Jr yesterday. Minnesota sentencing guidelines call for no jail time, but Judge King cited the multiple sex acts in the girl's bedroom and the victim's emotional vulerability in the jail sentence. King also said that he did not believe Koehn set out to intentionally groom her victim. "I think you are a very conflicted person. I think you just fell into temptation." King also imposed a 3 year suspended sentence and a $200 fine.

Friday, Koehn told the judge that she knew she had done wrong. She also told the girl's mother that she had waited a year to apologize. "I never meant to hurt you or your family," Koehn said, adding that she felt "horribly."

"It may be sincere," prosecutor Lawrence Clark said of the apology, "but it's too little and it's too late."

Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said that “It is always troubling to see incidents of this nature. While a person who is 16 years old can generally consent to a sexual relationship under Minnesota law, it is against the law regardless of consent for a teacher or a coach to have sexual contact with a 16-17-year old student over whom they have a position of authority.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

she is 17...????