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Second trial in teacher sex case scheduled

FARGO — A second trial for Aaron Knodel is scheduled to start June 23.

Cass County District Court Judge Steven McCullough denied a prosecutor's request to delay the second trial on two felony charges against the 2014 North Dakota Teacher of the Year accused of having sexual contact with a student in 2009, according to court records filed Friday.

On June 4, McCullough declared a mistrial on two of five counts against Knodel. In in his order, McCullough scheduled a new hearing to begin June 23.

State Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Byers said Monday he had just enough time to read over McCullough's 35-page order and two weeks is not enough time to review the case and properly prepare for a second trial.

"The state appreciates the desire for completion of this matter, but that time frame is simply unrealistic and unfair," Byers wrote in his brief.

Byers also wrote that he intended to ask the court to hold the second trial in a different court.

Knodel, 36, was charged in August with three Class C felony counts of corruption or solicitation of a minor and two Class B felony counts of corruption of a minor, all linked to alleged sexual contact with the student.

In his decision, McCullough upheld the jury's three not-guilty verdicts. McCullough said the 12-person jury found Knodel not guilty of one of the lesser charges on April 27, the same day jurors started deliberating the case, while not guilty verdicts were reached on the Class B charges on April 28, a day before a female juror was hospitalized.

After arriving at the courthouse the morning of April 29, the female juror was acting strangely and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. She told Cass County sheriff's deputies there that she was the lone holdout for a unanimous not guilty verdict on two of the counts. She also allegedly told deputies she had not disclosed during jury selection that she was a victim of sexual abuse, saying at one point she must "save the children."

Knodel's attorney, Robert Hoy, has urged Byers to dismiss the remaining two charges. He also filed motions last month claiming a second trial on any of the counts could equal double jeopardy for Knodel. But McCullough said in his ruling that double jeopardy — which prevents retrial for the same crime — is not an issue in this case because all 12 jurors did not reach a verdict on the two charges.

Knodel, a highly decorated West Fargo High School English teacher and academic coach was suspended without pay from the West Fargo School District in August, 2014.

The state licensing board has taken no action on his license.

Wendy Reuer

Wendy reports for The Forum and West Fargo Pioneer, where she is also assistant editor. A University of Minnesota Morris graduate from North Dakota, Wendy started her career in television news and entertainment in Minnesota and and at CBS Television City, Calif. before working at newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota. 

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