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Morris Area High School Principal enters not guilty plea in criminal sexual conduct case

Morris Area High School Principal Craig Peterson pleaded not guilty to four counts of criminal sexual conduct in Stevens County District Court on Wednesday, Feb. 5.

MORRIS – Morris Area High School Principal Craig Peterson pleaded not guilty to four counts of criminal sexual conduct in Stevens County District Court on Wednesday.

Peterson, 36, has been charged with two counts of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree and two counts of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree after allegedly assaulting an acquaintance at his home in Morris in December.

A pre-trial hearing on the case is scheduled for Wednesday, March 19 in front of Judge Gerald Seibel. At the pretrial hearing, Seibel will rule on motions related to evidence to be presented at a trial.

Peterson’s attorney, Robert Dalager, asked that a trial be scheduled after the pre-trial hearing, as the rulings on motions there would affect the number of witnesses called and how long the trial might last.

The lead attorney for the prosecution is Grant County Attorney Justin Anderson. Stevens County Attorney Aaron Jordan is serving as second chair on the case.

The charges in the case stem from an incident in December 2013. According to the criminal complaint, the 30-year-old woman arranged to meet Peterson about 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21 at the American Legion in Morris. After they both consumed several drinks, the woman told Peterson that she was starting to feel fuzzy.

Peterson and the woman decided to leave the bar and go to a bowling alley, but discovered it was closed. Peterson told the woman he had an air hockey table and pool table at his house and they agreed to go there, the complaint states. The woman told police that she either fell asleep or blacked out while Peterson was driving to his house.

The complaint states that the woman remembered arriving at Peterson’s home. She next recalled waking up naked in Peterson’s bed with Peterson on top of her, having sex with her. The woman told police that she pushed at Peterson’s chest, told him it hurt and asked him to stop. Later, the woman told police Peterson forced her to have sex again and forced her to perform oral sex on him.

According to the complaint, Peterson took the woman back to her vehicle at the bar about 12:30 a.m.

The woman drove to Stevens Community Medical Center, where she reported the incident.

Peterson was brought to the Stevens County Law Enforcement Center on Monday, Dec. 23 and provided a statement to police. In his statement, Peterson confirmed they had sex, but could not recall any conversations during sex and denied that she pushed at his chest. Peterson also denied that the woman was tired or seemed intoxicated.

Peterson has been on paid administrative leave from his position at Morris Area High School since Dec. 23. MAHS Activities Director Mark Ekren is serving as dean of students.

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Kim Ukura

Kim Ukura began working at the Farmington/Rosemount Independent Town Pages in August of 2016. Previously, she served as the editor of the Morris Sun Tribune for five years. She graduated from the University of Minnesota, Morris in 2008 with degrees in English and journalism. She earned a master's degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 2010. Prior to returning to Morris to work at the Sun Tribune, she worked in trade publishing. She has been recognized by the Minnesota Newspaper Association for human interest, multimedia, business and public affairs reporting. 

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