Former Grand Forks teacher gets 10 years for luring girls
GRAND FORKS -- A former Grand Forks teacher was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison for luring four young girls on the Internet.
Jeremy Thompson, 29, said in a letter to the court that, although he had never drank alcohol, used drugs or even tobacco, he battled depression and didn't seek help with "another addiction" involving his online sex chats with the girls.
"It was absolutely wrong and is something I regret every day," he wrote. "I truly feel terrible for how I have negatively impacted the lives of the victims as well as their families."
Thompson, who has no previous criminal history, pleaded guilty to five felony charges. His sentence totals 21 years with 11 suspended, during which he would be on supervised probation.
He worked previously as a teacher and coach in Edmore. In the last school year he worked as a para-educator and coach for Grand Forks Public Schools before he was fired after his Jan. 8 arrest.
Thompson was initially accused of exchanging sexually explicit messages last year with a 12-year-old girl he had met two years previously when he worked a summer for her father in Edmore.
This spring, investigators examining Thompson's computer discovered similar behavior with nine other girls ages 13 to 16. Some were girls he knew from school in Grand Forks. He was charged in two cases with luring the 10 girls using a computer and cellphone.
Thompson typically posed as a fellow student, one or two years older than the girls, using other names. He urged the girls to meet him for sexual activity, but there was no evidence he ever met with them.
His parents and sister wrote letters to the court to support him, saying his criminal acts were out of character. Also writing letters of support were his boyhood pastor and teachers from his hometown of Hillsboro.
Blake Hankey, Thompson's attorney, said Thompson was "your all-American boy," who was a star student and active in church and had never been charged with any crime before.
Because the plea agreement between Grand Forks County prosecutors and Thompson involved dismissing six of 11 charges, federal prosecutors could still mount their own case on those six charges.
However, Carmell Mattison, an assistant state's attorney for the county, said a federal prosecutor in Fargo had agreed to not pursue Thompson if he received 10 years in prison and she used that in negotiating a deal with Thompson.
"Mr. Thompson has a very deviant problem here that he does need to address," Mattison told state District Judge Debbie Kleven. "What I did find encouraging is it appears he definitely has been forthcoming with his behavior."
Kleven said the presentence investigation found Thompson would respond well to sex offender treatment.