Judge Christian Wilton will decide in the next six weeks whether a former Prior Lake High School student can be tried as an adult in a child pornography case involving victims from the high school and Hidden Oaks Middle School.

The now 18-year-old defendant faces 12 felony charges stemming from photographs and video recordings of women and children in the bathrooms at the schools in December and January, according to Scott County District Court documents. He was 17 when charged.

Investigators identified at least 33 victims ranging from 10 to 44 years old; the charges relate to actions against 10 girls only.

Attorneys from the state and defense gathered for two days of hearings this month on the defendant’s state of mind, treatment, probation and his actions’ impact of students and families.

Because the charges against the defendant do not include automatically include a prison sentence under state sentencing guidelines, the onus is on the state to prove the defendant qualifies as an adult. A motion filed by the prosecution in April argued “the public safety is not served by retaining the juvenile in juvenile court.”

The process has three potential outcomes: The case remains in juvenile court, the defendant receives an Extended Jurisdiction Juvenile certification allowing the court to monitor his case until he turns 21, or he is certified as an adult.

Adult certification would allow the court to monitor the man for the longest amount of time, potentially years, while extended juvenile certification would give the court 29 months to order treatment and set probation terms.

The state has three weeks to file their closing argument, followed by a two-week deadline for the defense. Following the filings, Wilton has 15 days to make a ruling.

State attorneys focused on demonstrating the seriousness of the crime and questioned whether the defendant could be reformed in 29 months.

County Attorney Theresa Flahaven painted a picture of a man who had long and increasingly perverse habit of invading women’s privacy.

According to testimony by clinical forensic psychologist Dawn Peuschold, probation Officer Stacy Peterson and court documents, the defendant began by photographing and posting images of women’s feet online, then took upskirt photos of women and girls and eventually practiced and planned the best ways to take photos of women changing.

Investigators say the man took video of his mother, brother’s girlfriend and a family friend changing in various hotel bathrooms before he was arrested for the school incidents.

Peterson recommended that the man receive an extended juvenile certification. While he was concerned by the defendant’s “aggravating actions,” he said, the defendant had been rated a low risk during a probation assessment because he lacks a prior criminal history and is open to treatment.

Peterson said he wasn’t sure whether longer supervision of the defendant would be better for public safety.

Peuschold described the alleged acts as “lacking sophistication.” She testified that she had determined the defendant could be a moderate risk of reoffending.

Prior Lake Detective Joe Rozga said there’s been a definite hit to the community’s sense of security because of the case.

Meg Britton-Mehlisch is a regional reporter covering Scott County for Southwest News Media.


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