A former Omaha Public Schools teacher convicted of sexually assaulting a student is seeking a new trial.
Shad Knutson asked a judge Wednesday to set aside two convictions that have the former Nathan Hale Middle School teacher facing a minimum of 3 years in prison and as much as 55 years.
The 36-year-old Knutson, who appeared in yellow jail scrubs, will be sentenced later this month.
Public Defender Tom Riley argued that Knutson essentially was given two convictions for one set of facts. Jurors found him guilty of child abuse and of sexual assault by use of electronic communication device.
The root of both charges was the same scenario, Riley said.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine disagreed. He said the child abuse happened when Knutson asked for topless photos of the underage girl, who was 14 and 15 at the time.
The sexual assault by communication device happened when Knutson talked about sex and about taking the relationship to the next level during more than 27,000 phone calls and texts the two exchanged over 10 months in 2010, Kleine said.
Riley also argued that authorities should not have been able to issue blanket subpoenas of Knutson's phone records.
He compared the seizing of Knutson's phone records to the U.S. Justice Department seizing Associated Press reporters' phone records. Authorities should have to obtain those records by having a judge sign off on search warrants, Riley said.
Kleine said there is no comparison. Knutson's records were subpoenaed because he was suspected of criminal activity with children.
District Judge Duane Dougherty likely will rule on the motion for a new trial before sentencing Knutson. Such motions are rarely granted.
A jury acquitted Knutson, who was fired by OPS administrators, on allegations he made lewd comments, touched or otherwise sexually harassed three other underage students. Jurors said the girls' stories were credible but that OPS administrators' delays in reporting the allegations hampered investigators' ability to collect corroborating evidence.
OPS has since changed its policy and now requires staff members to immediately refer abuse allegations to police.
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