Supporters pitch in for former ND teacher of the year facing second trial


The former North Dakota Teacher of the Year, charged with having sexual contact with a teenage student, is getting help with his legal bills from some fellow educators.

Aaron Knodel, 36, was charged last summer with five counts of corruption and solicitation of a minor. Prosecutors said he’d had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old female student at West Fargo high school in 2009.

During jury deliberation, one of the members became disoriented and was taken to a hospital. At that point, all 12 had found Knodel not guilty on three of the counts, decisions the judge upheld.

But on the remaining two charges, the judge declared a mistrial, and Knodel is now facing a second trial.

The Forum reports his legal bill is nearing $250,000 – and that's just for what's happened up till now. Another trial will push that even higher.

Knodel though has support from some of his fellow teachers, who want to help him with his mounting legal fees.

They've created an online account with YouCaring to help raise money for Khodel.

"He has been without pay for the last year and has had to cover all of his legal fees on his own," the YouCaring site says. "Both of his parents served as teachers in North Dakota and the cost of his defense has totally depleted their lifetime and retirement savings. Your donation will go directly to help his defense costs."

Donations can also be made to a Fargo bank account that was recently set up.

Defense attorneys had argued a second trial would be "double jeopardy" – trying someone twice for the same crime. But the judge rejected that argument.

On the two counts declared a mistrial, all but one of the jurors had reportedly decided on a not guilty verdict – the lone holdout being the member who had to be taken to the hospital, Forum reports.

When will the trial be?

A trial date was a point of contention, but that seems to be settled now.

On Monday prosecutors asked for that to be pushed back, saying it's "unreasonable" to think the state will be able to prepare witnesses, documents and other things for another trial on that short of notice, Valley News Live reports.

They're also asking the trial be moved out of Fargo.

But on Thursday the defense argued a delay isn't justified, KVRR reports, and the case shouldn't get stuck in limbo for weeks on end.

On Friday, the judge denied the delay request – and the trial will start June 23 as planned, Forum reports.

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