FARGO, N.D. – State prosecutors said in court documents filed Thursday that they won't pursue a retrial in the case of a former North Dakota teacher of the year accused of having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old female student in 2009.
The trial for West Fargo High School English teacher Aaron Knodel ended abruptly in April following one juror's medical emergency during deliberations. Judge Steven McCullough also said the woman failed to disclose during jury selection that she had been a victim of sexual abuse.
McCullough on June 4 threw out three charges against Knodel, but he left it up to the attorney general's office whether to retry Knodel on the other two counts of felony corruption or solicitation of a minor. The judge on June 12 denied a motion by prosecutors to delay a possible second trial, which had been set for Tuesday.
In a motion filed Thursday, lead prosecutor Jonathan Byers questioned the actions of the defense attorney and judge in the case but said "the people's lawyers still believe in doing the right thing" in seeking to have the remaining charges dropped.
Byers said that McCullough's comments in the mistrial order that the state's evidence was weak and the defense argument was strong "caused great pause and a need to reflect on the true nature of fundamental fairness and the interests of justice."
But Byers criticized defense attorney Robert Hoy for an "insistence on trying the case in the media" and referred to a letter-writing campaign asking the attorney general to drop the remaining charges.
"The young woman in this case has been treated horribly unfairly by the letter writing campaign and bloggers," Byers wrote. "Some of the views being expressed in the letters and to the media have set the cause of sexual abuse reporting back three decades."
Neither Hoy nor a spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office immediately responded Thursday to requests for comment.
Prosecutors had been leaning toward dropping the case, Byers said, but events since the trial "have made us feel like cattle in a chute driven towards a foregone conclusion at the point of a sharp stick."