WILLMAR - A former Willmar Senior High School teacher pleaded guilty Thursday to having a sexual relationship with a female student from 2010 to 2012.
Chad Jeffrey Akerson, 35, of Willmar, pleaded guilty in Kandiyohi County District Court to third-degree criminal sexual conduct. In a plea agreement, charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and second-degree criminal sexual conduct will be dismissed. He had originally pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.
If Judge Michael Thompson follows the agreement, Akerson could be sentenced to three years in prison, followed by 10 years of conditional release.
Thompson will be able to consider other aggravating factors when determining whether Akerson’s sentence should be longer.
Akerson’s sentencing date is Nov. 30.
Before his plea was accepted, Akerson answered questions from his lawyer, Thompson and Assistant Kandiyohi County Attorney Aaron Welch. To most of the questions, he answered with one word: “Yes.”
Akerson’s lawyer Ryan Garry asked questions about the plea agreement. Akerson agreed that no one had coerced him into making the plea. “You are pleading guilty because you are, in fact, guilty,” Garry asked. “Yes,” Akerson said.
Under questioning from Welch, Akerson said that he had sex with the female student and that he was 14 years older than she was.
He agreed that being her teacher and, at one time, her hockey coach had placed him in a position of authority over her.
When Welch asked about the aggravating factors, Akerson said that the sexual activity had taken place at Willmar Senior High and at the student’s home. He agreed that she should have been entitled to feel safe in those places.
Akerson also agreed that his relationship with the student had caused emotional distress and had caused her relationship with her family to worsen.
Welch asked if he agreed, because of his age and position of authority, “that she trusted you, and you took advantage of her.” Akerson said, “yes.”
Kandiyohi County Attorney Shane Baker said he was pleased with the plea arrangement.
“We’ve been working with the victim throughout the process,” he said. “She was supportive of this resolution. He had to admit that he did the act, not do an Alford plea. He had to admit that he had sex with his student.”
In an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit to a crime but acknowledges that there is enough evidence for a conviction
Akerson was arrested in December 2014 after the female student, now an adult, had contacted Willmar police a month earlier. She alleged that Akerson began a sexual relationship with her in the fall of 2009, when she was 15 years old, and he was 29. According to court records, he had been playing the role of a father figure during a difficult time in her family.
He began having regular sexual intercourse with her in January 2010, and sexual contact continued through summer 2012.
She reported to police that they had sex in Akerson’s classroom and other rooms at Willmar Senior High, at his home, at her home and in his vehicle.
Akerson moved away from Willmar in fall 2012, but the sexual contact allegedly continued into 2014. The criminal charges covered fall 2009 to summer 2012.
Akerson resigned in October 2012 as health instructor and weight room supervisor at Willmar Senior High. A few days earlier, the district had initiated an investigation into him following a citizen complaint. The school district had terminated his coaching duties with junior varsity baseball, girls soccer and girls hockey in March 2010.
At the time of his arrest, he had been a physical education teacher at Ashby High School.