Ten thousand times. In a little more than 10 months. That's how many times a former Nathan Hale Middle School teacher and a 15-year-old former student exchanged calls and text messages — at all times of the day and night, prosecutors say. It didn't stop there, said prosecutor Molly Keane. From January 2010 through November 2010, Keane alleged, teacher Shad M. Knutson and the girl often “made out” in his classroom after school. He kissed the girl, fondled her breasts and had her touch him, Keane said.
In short, prosecutors said, the latest allegations against Knutson didn't involve just groping.
“It was classic grooming,” said Brenda Beadle, chief deputy Douglas County attorney.
Knutson's attorney, Barb Thielen, has said she questions the credibility of five girls, ranging in age from 13 to 15, who reported inappropriate conduct by Knutson.
“These are serious allegations,” she told a judge Monday, “but they are simply allegations.”
She declined outside of court to comment further.
Knutson, who turns 35 Tuesday, waived his preliminary hearing Monday on the four latest charges against him: two counts of child abuse, one count of attempted sexual assault on a child and one count of sexual assault by use of a cellphone.
Those charges concern two girls. Keane told a judge that Knutson, then a social studies teacher, asked one former student to send him a photo of her breasts. Those allegations make up one child abuse charge.
Keane alleged he also asked for the same sort of photo — and much more — from the other student.
From January through November 2010, Keane alleged, Knutson and the other girl, then 15, had 10,000 contacts either by phone call or text message. Prosecutors said the girl, by then a former student, would meet Knutson after school purportedly for tutoring.
“He indicated to (the alleged victim) that he was wanting to take it to the next level,” Keane told the judge. “He requested that she have sex with him at least five times.”
With the latest charges, prosecutors asked Douglas County District Judge Duane Dougherty to increase Knutson's bail, which stands at 10 percent of $500,000.
Thielen argued against it. She said that Knutson, who already posted the bail, has no criminal record and has attended every court hearing.
Dougherty declined to increase the bail. The judge did, however, order Knutson to have no contact with the girls.
In addition to the two latest girls, Knutson was charged with lewd behavior with three other underage girls, all former students at Nathan Hale. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges and no trial date has been set.
Prosecutors said no decision has been made on whether Omaha Public Schools administrators neglected their duty to report child abuse to police. OPS has defended the lack of reporting, saying officials never were told by a student or parent that Knutson sexually assaulted a student.
On allegations of lewd behavior, administrators said Nebraska law specifies that “reasonable cause” is required to believe abuse has occurred in order to make a report.
A trial date has not been set.
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