A police officer assigned to a school in Cottage Grove has been charged with seven sex offenses for allegedly inappropriately touching students over a period of more than a year.
Adam Pelton, 40, of River Falls, Wisconsin, has been charged with three counts of 2nd-degree criminal sexual conduct and four counts of 4th-degree for the touching "with sexual intent" of students between Sept. 1, 2018, and Oct. 4, 2019.
Police were made aware his alleged behavior by a student of Park High School on Oct. 4, who said that Pelton had touched her buttocks over her clothing.
Multiple students were interviewed, with seven reporting having been inappropriately touched by him, three of whom were aged 13-15, with the other four aged 16-17.
Several reported that Pelton initiated hugs throughout the day. Some of these were seen on school surveillance cameras, but most of the sexual contact happened inside his office, with students saying "the hugs given outside his office were different from the hugs given inside his office."
Some students reported liking to have their lunch inside his office, but one of them said Pelton would rest his hand on her butt before moving his hand quickly away 4-5 times a week between November 2018 and March 2019.
The same student, who was 17 at the time of the offense, said Pelton sent her a message via Snapchat asking her to send him nude pictures, which she didn't do.
Another student said Pelton's hand would also linger on her buttocks during hugs, and she listed other behaviors that made her uncomfortable, including when Pelton told her he would date her if they were the same age.
When asked if she or her friends had reported his actions, she said: "We aren't going to say anything. I mean, he's a police officer."
When interviewed by police, Pelton immediately denied touching the students on their butts, and even said it wouldn't have happened accidentally.
When he was told the names of the students, he said he didn't know why they would make up their stories. He also admitted to sending the Snapchat message asking for nude photos, claiming he did so as a joke.
The Pioneer Press notes the case is being prosecuted by the Dakota County Attorney’s Office, to avoid a conflict of interview for the is handling the case to avoid any conflict for the Washington County Attorney’s Office.
In a statement, Cottage Grove Public Safety Director Pete Koerner said: "The Cottage Grove Police Department is aware of the charges filed by prosecutors. As soon as allegations were brought forth, CGPD responded immediately with a preliminary investigation.
"Within 24 hours, the case was turned over to an outside agency to conduct an independent investigation. The Cottage Grove Police Department will be unable to comment on the case until it is resolved in the court system."