He was hired to teach young minds, but instead preyed upon a young girl in his classroom. Shad Knutson was charged with crimes against four girls, but a jury convicted him Friday of enticing only one.
Knutson was found guilty on two of five counts against him. One was using an electronic device to entice a minor, the other, child abuse.
Prosecutors argued that the 36-year-old Knutson molested or had inappropriate relationships with girls ages 13 to 15 from 2008 through 2010 while a social studies teacher at Nathan Hale Magnet Middle School. He was charged with five felony counts, including sexual assault of a child.
The jury found Knutson guilty of child abuse and using a cellphone to entice a child. Evidence showed Knutson had exchanged some 26,000 messages and calls with one girl. He was acquitted of counts involving three other girls.
Ironically, the charges he was convicted of were related to the prosecution witness who told the jury that she was the aggressor in the relationship. The girl's defense of her former teacher may have been what led to his conviction. Aggressor or not, she was a minor at the time and Knutson should have stayed clear.
"It was terribly heartbreaking to hear her as she was preyed upon by him saying he loved her and doing the things that he did to her and the contact that they had over the phone, the 26,000 communications over a one-year period," said Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine.
Leaving the courtroom, the families of the girls who testified had mixed emotions. They were thankful for the two convictions, but couldn't understand how Knutson was found not guilty of the first three.
"I believe he should have been found guilty on all five counts," said the father of one girl. "I'm very happy that he was found guilty on the stiffer penalties. I believe justice was served here today. I would hope that some closure could be brought to the victims, to our families, and we can get these predators away from our children."
Knutson's conviction comes with a mandatory three-year sentence. The maximum sentence he faces is 55 years in prison. Judge Duane Daugherty has ordered a presentence investigation and has set May 23rd as Knutson's sentencing date.