- Associated Press - Thursday, June 4, 2015

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - A judge said Thursday that the 2014 North Dakota Teacher of the Year can be retried on two of five charges alleging a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old female student in 2009.

The trial for Aaron Knodel, a West Fargo High School English teacher, ended abruptly in April following one juror’s medical emergency while they were deliberating. Knodel later filed a motion for acquittal on all charges.

East Central District Judge Steven McCullough ruled that Knodel should be acquitted on the three charges where all 12 jurors found him not guilty. The judge left it up to the attorney general’s office on whether it wants to retry Knodel on the other two counts of felony corruption or solicitation of a minor.

Defense attorney Bob Hoy told The Associated Press he’s pleased the ruling puts three counts “to rest with finality,” and said the mistrial on the other two counts is disappointing but not “entirely unexpected” because laws on the issue favor the state.

Hoy said prosecutors can go ahead with a second trial or “recognize the jury’s view of the evidence and conclude this case without the expenditure of additional time, money and emotional capital by all concerned.”

Liz Brocker, spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, said the state is reviewing the court’s order and will “make a determination in due course.”

McCullough said in his order that 11 of the 12 jurors apparently wanted to find Knodel, 36, not guilty on the remaining two counts. But McCullough said any court ruling on acquittal must consider the evidence “as favorable to the state as possible.”

Jurors were deliberating the case on April 29 when one of them was taken from the courthouse to a hospital after becoming disoriented. McCullough said in court that the juror later told sheriff’s deputies that she had failed to disclose during the jury selection process that she had been a victim of sexual abuse.

Hoy said he’s grateful that McCullough has set the remaining counts for a “prompt resolution” with a June 23 trial date.

“Mr. Knodel and his family are thankful for the many friends, family, colleagues, former students, and community members that have supported them through this trying time,” Hoy said. “It has made a difficult time a little easier.”



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