Jury deliberating case against ex-teacher accused of sexual misconduct - Omaha.com
Published Friday, March 8, 2013 at 12:00 am / Updated at 4:11 am
Jury deliberating case against ex-teacher accused of sexual misconduct

Shad Knutson was a hands-on teacher.

On that much, the defense and prosecution agreed during the seven-day trial of the former middle school teacher facing five felony charges relating to sexual misconduct.

Judging whether Knutson's hands-on methods were criminal — whether he made sexual advances toward middle school girls, including asking for oral sex — is now up to a jury of nine women and three men.

Prosecutors and the defense rested Thursday after spending nearly four hours making closing arguments in the case.

Knutson, 36, who formerly taught at Nathan Hale Middle School, testified in his defense Wednesday.

“His words were 'I'm a hands-on teacher,' ” said Brenda Beadle, chief deputy Douglas County attorney. “He sure is. He sure is.”

Prosecutors told the jury to decide the case based on the credibility of those who testified: Knutson, who denied the girls' sexual allegations, or the girls, who in emotional testimony detailed sexual touching and requests for more.

“It is about the courage and the strength of four girls to come in here to tell you all, and to tell all of us, what they had to endure at his hands,” Beadle said.

But the defense questioned the state's case, saying Omaha Public Schools officials investigated two of the girls' claims but never told police.

Public Defender Tom Riley said prosecutors relied too much on individual testimony without corroborating witnesses.

“When (OPS) determined that it's baseless,” he said, “what are they supposed to do — call the police and say 'This is baseless'?”

The jury will decide whether Knutson is guilty of two counts of child abuse, two counts of sexual contact and one count of enticing a child with an electronic device. If convicted, he would face three to 70 years in prison.

Throughout the case, prosecutors have shaped it as a failure of OPS and praised the girls for their testimony.

It wasn't until Knutson's alleged third victim complained that police found out about the allegations of the first two girls.

Knutson allegedly brushed his hands against the third girl's breasts, according to her earlier testimony. The girl, then 14, thought it was an accident, but Knutson did it again, she said, and smiled.

He also grabbed her pen, placed it in front of his crotch and dared her to grab it.

The girl told her mother, who told school officials to call police. OPS officials declined.

The mother called Child Protective Services.

The fourth alleged victim, a Nathan Hale alumnus who said she was in love with Knutson, exchanged nearly 27,000 text messages or phone calls in a year.

She said she fell in love with Knutson the summer before her ninth-grade year and visited Nathan Hale so she could be with him. She said that during her freshman and sophomore years, when she was 14 and 15, the two made out in his classroom.

Knutson admitted to hugging a student but never making out with her in the classroom. He also said sometimes text messages can be as short as one letter.

Riley said just because the girls said Knutson made advances doesn't mean it's true.

Knutson may have acted in a juvenile way around his students, he said, “but he's not a pervert.”

Knutson has a reason to lie, prosecutors said: to deny the embarrassing allegations against him.

If the girls were lying, Beadle said, why would they subject themselves to interviews with police and attorneys and to public testimony?

“These aren't friends who get together one night and said 'Let's set up our social studies teacher just for kicks,' ” Beadle said to the jury. “Hold him accountable.”

Contact the writer: 402-444-1074, jonathon.braden@owh.com, twitter.com/jonathonbraden

Contact the writer: Jonathon Braden

jonathon.braden@owh.com    |   402-444-1074    |  

Jonathon writes about education, mostly the Omaha Public Schools, Nebraska's largest district.

8% of alcohol sellers checked in Omaha area last week sold booze to minors
OPS bus, SUV collide; no students onboard at the time
Waitress who served alcohol to teen before fatal crash gets jail time, probation
Lori Jenkins, charged as accessory in 4 murders, waives speedy trial
Iowa State servers hacked, nearly 30,000 SSNs at risk
New public employee pay data: Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy Counties, plus utilities
2nd District House race: After 8 terms, Lee Terry knows how D.C. works — and doesn't
Bellevue man is killed at Minnesota dance hall after South Sudanese basketball tourney
Spring corn planting still sputters in Nebraska, Iowa, other key states
Nebraska banking and finance director to retire
19-year-old killed in one-vehicle crash at 72nd & Shirley
Gov. Heineman vetoes bill to ease restrictions on nurse practitioners
U.S. Senate race: State Auditor Mike Foley defends Shane Osborn against ad campaign
Public defender to represent Nikko Jenkins in sentencing
Mid-America Center on track for lower operating loss
Bluffs City Council approves dozens of new numbered street lights
National Law Enforcement Memorial Week set for May
Ted Cruz backs Pete Ricketts' campaign for governor
Omahan charged with 5th-offense DUI after street race causes rollover
2 blocks of Grover Street closed
Safety board report blames pilot error in 2013 crash that killed UNO student, passenger
Omaha man accused in shooting ordered held on $75,000 bail
2 men charged with conspiracy to distribute meth held on $1 million bail each
La Vista plans meeting on sales tax proposal, 84th Street redevelopment
6-mile stretch of Highway 75 is the road not taken
< >
COLUMNISTS »
Breaking Brad: Into the claw machine! Florida kid follows Lincoln kid's lead
In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a child climbed inside a claw machine. Hey, Florida kid: Nobody likes a copycat.
Breaking Brad: Even Chuck Hassebrook's throwing mud!
The Nebraska campaigns have turned so ugly, Democrat Chuck Hassebrook lobbed unfounded accusations at an imaginary opponent.
Breaking Brad: Kraft wiener recall is business opportunity for TD Ameritrade Park
Instead of returning the wieners, TD Ameritrade Park is calling them "cheese dogs" and charging double.
Breaking Brad: Photos with the Easter Bunny are so 2010
In a sign of the times, most kids ran out of patience waiting for a photo with the Easter Bunny at the mall, just snapped a selfie and went home.
Kelly: 70 years after a deadly D-Day rehearsal, Omahan, WWII vet will return to Europe
A World War II veteran from Omaha will return this week to Europe to commemorate a tragedy in the run-up to D-Day.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Tokyo Sushi
$5 for $10 or $10 for $20 toward All-You-Can-Eat Sushi Purchase
Buy Now
PHOTO GALLERIES »
< >
SPOTLIGHT »
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
WORLD-HERALD ALERTS »
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for Omaha.com's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »