A former OPS teacher will go on trial Monday on charges that he had inappropriate contact with four female students.
Shad Knutson's trial originally was scheduled to begin Wednesday, but it was delayed after Knutson's defense objected to prosecutors' plans to call two experts.
Douglas County prosecutors had hoped to have the experts testify about the tactics used to groom children, as well as why girls are hesitant to report allegations about adults' behavior.
Prosecutors say Knutson, a social studies teacher at Nathan Hale Middle School, sent thousands of text messages and made hundreds of phone calls to the girls who, at the time, were either current or former Hale students.
They allege that Knutson, who eventually was fired, used the phone calls and text messages to groom the teens, ages 13 to 15, into inappropriate relationships — begging some of the girls to send him lewd pictures and groping others.
Knutson's attorney, Public Defender Tom Riley, asked the judge to prevent the prosecution experts from testifying — saying such testimony amounts to “an improper comment on the credibility” of the teens.
District Judge Duane Dougherty denied Riley's request. However, the judge granted Riley's motion to continue the trial for several weeks to allow Riley to research the experts' claims and perhaps find a defense expert.
That prompted County Attorney Don Kleine and his chief deputy, Brenda Beadle, to drop their plan to call the experts. In turn, Dougherty reset jury selection for Monday.
Knutson has pleaded not guilty to seven felony counts: attempted first-degree sexual assault, soliciting a child by use of a communication device, two counts of child abuse and three counts of third-degree sexual assault involving touching. If convicted, he would face up to 125 years in prison.
The case sparked controversy over the Omaha Public Schools' failure to report the matter to police.
Kleine eventually declined to prosecute any administrators over the failure, in part because OPS officials have since revised their policy to require reporting of sexual misconduct matters to police within 24 hours.
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