James Edward Carter, 56, of Forest Lake, was charged Wednesday with two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct. He was arrested around 3 p.m. Wednesday and booked into the Washington County Jail.
Carter, who taught industrial tech at Forest Lake Area Middle School, would employ former students to work on projects at his house in exchange for money, food and gifts, according to the criminal complaint.
Two boys, now 16 and 17, told officials that Carter had touched them inappropriately on separate occasions over the past two years “after developing close friendships with each,” the complaint states.
The 16-year-old told police he met Carter after getting into a fight in school that resulted in him being required to complete community service. He was given the option of completing his community service work helping Carter “clean his classroom and doing other odds and ends,” the complaint states. Carter became the boy’s advisory teacher and “would often take (him) out to restaurants and would always pay for him,” according to the complaint.
On six separate occasions, starting in the spring of 2019 and ending on Aug. 6, Carter inappropriately touched the boy while giving him a “massage” in the basement of his house. Carter told the boy that “this is between us,” and he would get in trouble if anyone knew, the complaint states.
The 17-year-old told police that Carter inappropriately touched him while giving him a “massage” on New Year’s Eve 2018. The massage lasted between 10 and 15 seconds and ended when the boy got up and told Carter: “Don’t ever let that happen again.”
From 2018 until present time, Carter purchased several unsolicited gifts for the 17-year-old, including a dirt bike, riding gear/clothing, a fishing-depth finder, expensive work boots, snowmobile equipment and a $5,000 mower for the boy to use for his lawn-mowing job.
The boys spent the night together at one of the boys’ houses on Aug. 18 and had planned to attend online church at Carter’s house the next morning. The 16-year-old said he did not want to go and said Carter had touched him inappropriately; the 17-year-old “shared that he, too, had been touched sexually by the defendant,” the complaint states.
The boys told police that about a dozen boys — all high school-aged males — “worked” for Carter on various projects.
The Forest Lake Area School District sent a letter to families on Wednesday confirming Carter, who started with the district in 2012, is no longer employed there. He resigned Wednesday before the district was aware of the charges.
Carter could not be reached for comment.
“The news of these charges is alarming and disturbing to us,” school officials wrote. “If you, or your child, have any information about this matter, we encourage you to reach out to your school administrator, counselor and law enforcement.”
Washington County Attorney Pete Orput commended the boys “for having the courage to come forward.”
“Protecting children is our greatest priority,” he said. “The defendant wholly abused his position of authority as a teacher and trusted adult to these young boys. This abuse and breach of trust erodes the very foundation of our education system and will never be tolerated.””
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