A former employee of the Rochester School District was sentenced Friday to 45 days in jail after being convicted of criminal sexual conduct.
Nicholas Gerald Keller, 31, was sentenced in Olmsted County District Court by Judge Pamela King to 365 days in jail with all but 45 days of the sentence stayed for four years.
Keller entered an Alford plea on a single gross misdemeanor charge of fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct in May. An Alford plea means that a defendant has admitted there is enough evidence to find the person guilty, but the person is not admitting to being guilty. On a criminal record it appears the same as if it were a guilty plea or conviction.
Keller, who worked as a School Age Child Care (SACC) teacher at Sunset Terrace Elementary School, inappropriately touched an 8-year-old girl in 2017. Keller resigned from his job at Rochester Public Schools in May 2017 after the complaint was made.
In court Friday, the girl’s family came prepared with a statement on how Keller’s actions affected them.
Reading the statement written by the girl’s parents, victim advocate Rebecca Kamrath said the family’s “nightmare” began in May 2017 after their son reported that Keller was inappropriately touching children but that it began earlier for their daughter.
“She will never be the same. We will never know who she would have become,” Kamrath said on behalf of the girl’s family.
The family said their daughter’s behavior has changed from an innocent child full of joy to a child who has become aggressive at times and who loses her spirit. The family asked the judge to “protect the children in this community” by ensuring Keller is not given easy access to children again.
In presenting her reasoning for the sentence, Olmsted County Assistant District Attorney Erin Gustafson said that Keller’s version of events was concerning because of the minimization he displayed in the pre-sentencing investigation and psychosexual evaluation.
Keller’s attorney, Zachary Bauer, focused most of his presentation to the judge on clarifying various conditions to be put in place if King were to accept the joint agreement that was presented. Bauer also assured the judge that Keller would make progress in treatment.
Speaking on his own behalf, Keller said he understood how difficult and stressful this has been for the girl and her family and said that he and his family have also been “extremely affected by this circumstance.”
“From day one, I have maintained my innocence, but I have given up my right to prove it by accepting an Alford plea,” Keller said.
In handing down the sentence, King said she struggled tremendously with deciding what to do.
“This little girl’s life has been changed forever. Period,” King said. “You decided you were going to follow your own rules.”
Through Keller’s actions, King said the community suffered a huge betrayal of trust.
King ultimately sentenced Keller to 365 days in jail, 320 days of it stayed for a four-year period during which time he will be on probation with conditions, including that he register as a predatory offender, not possess any sexually explicit material, attend sex offender treatment and have no contact with minors without advance approval. He is also precluded from vocations where children congregate.
Bauer said that Keller was prepared to report for his jail sentence on Monday, to which King replied that Keller would report by 5 p.m. Friday.
“He is lucky I am not taking him into custody right now,” she said.