A former Forest Lake middle school teacher has been sentenced for sexually assaulting two former students multiple times at his home.
James Edward Carter, 58, has been sentenced to one year in prison after being found guilty of 2nd and 4th-degree criminal sexual conduct.
The former educator, who taught industrial tech at Forest Lake Area Middle School, was charged in August 2020 after he groomed and sexually assaulted two boys.
According to the criminal complaint, Carter paid several of his students and former students to do work at his home and other properties. He provided two boys – aged 16 and 17 – with gifts, bought them meals at restaurants and would attend church together (either in person or online at Carter's home).
These boys both accused Carter of massaging their groins on at least one occasion.
According to charges, there were ten other high school-aged boys that were identified as students who "worked" for Carter on various projects.
“Mr. Carter’s blatant abuse of his position of trust to sexually abuse minor victims is every parent’s nightmare and a crime that this office will always prosecute to the fullest extent,” said Washington County Attorney Kevin Magnuson, whose office prosecuted the case.
"It is my hope that the conclusion of this case will help the victims and their families continue to heal.”
Pastor apologizes after seeking 'clemency' for teacher
A pastor in Forest Lake has apologized to the community after he sought "clemency" for Carter.
According to court documents, Father Daniel Bodin sent a letter to the judge presiding over Carter's trial asking for clemency because the church had not received any sexual assault allegations against Carter, "but only letters of praise and gratitude for the work Mr. Carter has done to instruct and encourage the youth to live and practice their faith."
Carter used to volunteer at St. Peter in Forest Lake, where Bodin is the lead pastor.
However, Bodin has since apologized for his actions. A statement on the church's website reads:
In July, I sent a letter on behalf of James Carter to the judge who presided over Carter’s sexual abuse trial and who will be imposing a sentence on him this Friday [September 16, 2022]. I am deeply sorry and take full responsibility for the pain that letter caused those who were abused by James Carter, their loved ones, the faithful and our community. It was wrong of me to send the letter and I deeply regret doing so. Please know that today I again wrote to the judge and retracted my earlier letter in its entirety. A copy of today’s letter is located here.
Child abusers must be held accountable and punished under the law. Period. Children count on us for protection and I am committed to creating and maintaining safe environments both at our school and in our parish community. My first letter was incompatible with that commitment. I should have known better and foreseen the harm. I am profoundly sorry for the pain caused by my failure.
In response, attorney Jeff Anderson, who represents the family of one of the victims, called Bodin's decision to support Carter during the trial "horrifying."
“The choice made by Fr. Bodin ... to stand with this offender and speak from the pulpit in support of him was horrifying,” said Anderson. "Fr. Bodin’s public apology was meaningless. It is time for Archbishop Hebda, Fr. Bodin, and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to act. It is time to minister to the children. It is time to encourage that any other children harmed by this offender come forward, speak the truth, and report to law enforcement."
Anderson believes more victims are out there.
“We have deep concerns that these are not the only survivors,” continued Anderson. “Carter placed himself where he accessed children and over time groomed children for further access. It is time for Archbishop Hebda and Fr. Bodin to help heal rather than support the predator who posed the peril."
As well as imprisonment, Carter will have to serve 25 years probation that involves him having no contact with minors or hold any position of authority over minors as an employee or volunteer, as well as register as a sex offender.