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Sex trial underway for former Lake Park teacher

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Trial is underway in Becker County District Court for a former Lake Park-Audubon teacher charged with felony third-degree criminal sexual conduct for allegedly having intercourse with a 15-year-old girl.

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The charge technically involves a victim age 13-15 and a perpetrator at least two years older.

Jared Lee Sanborn, 26, of P.O. Box 122, Lake Park, appeared in Becker County District Court Tuesday, where attorneys completed jury selection and held opening arguments. District Judge Joe Evans is presiding over the case.

Sanborn is accused of having sexual intercourse with the girl 4-6 times over a four-month period at his house in Lake Park.

It allegedly occurred between late February of 2005 and early May of 2005, when she was 15 and he was 21 and 22.

Sanborn, a first-year teacher at Lake Park-Audubon high school, taught business and was technology coordinator until his resignation Jan. 14.

"This case is about a 22-year-old man having sexual intercourse with a child -- who trusted him and looked up to him," Assistant Becker County Attorney Tammy Merkins told the jury in her opening statement.

The girl had known Sanborn since she was 9 and begin babysitting extensively for two families related to Sanborn, Merkins said.

The girl became very close with the two families and attended birthday parties and other special events with them, even going on vacation with them, Merkins said.

Sanborn and the girl "grew to know each other," Merkins said.

But in 2005 when she was 15, the girl was "going through some tough times with her own family -- a brother who was in trouble with drugs, a father in trouble with alcohol, and a mother trying to keep it all together.

"At the time, she needed someone to look up to, someone to turn to, someone to talk to and share her troubles with -- she wasn't happy in her own family," Merkins said.

At the time, Sanborn lived alone in a house in Lake Park, and the girl started "spending a lot of time there with Jered ... they'd hang out, watch TV, watch movies."

She thought of Jered as a brother, Merkins said "She was relieved that she had found a friend at this time ... to dump her problems, at a time when there was really nowhere else she could go to do that," Merkins said.

Then one day, Sanborn was lying on a couch and told her to come over and lay with him. He kissed her for the first time. At the time she was 15 -- a freshman in high school, Merkins said. The girl was afraid to lose his friendship, though she was uncomfortable with being kissed.

The next time led to sexual intercourse, Merkins said.

This was to happen 4-6 times over four months, including once after the girl went to Sanborn for consolation after the suicide of a relative.

A few months later, Merkins said, things got better in the girls' family life and she begin to hang out with people her own age. She kept in contact with Sanborn and his family, but eventually got a boyfriend and told him about Sanborn. He was concerned, and she promised him she would tell somebody about it, but "she was scared," Merkins said, "She thought people would be mad at her."

It wasn't until she was a senior in high school and Sanborn begin working there as a teacher that she "eventually broke down" and told a teacher about Sanborn. "She was very upset, she started crying," Merkins said.

The girl and the teacher talked to the school superintendent and also talked to the girl's mother about what had happened, Merkins said.

The allegations are not true, defense attorney Kenneth J. Kohler told the jury. "He flatly denies it."

Anyone can make allegations, Kohler added, "but can they prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it occurred?"

The defense will produce witnesses who knew the girl and "knew she had problems, and problems at home," Kohler said. Sanborn's relatives tried to include her in family trips and other events.

When she was 15, the girl developed a crush on Sanborn, Kohler said. "She kept calling and pestering him, coming over to visit -- they would go rollerblading together. He never, ever returned anything but friendship to (the girl) ... He never kissed her or had sex with her."

Sanborn is a respected member of the community, Kohler said, and in 2005 he lived alone but had friends who "stopped over at all hours of the day and night." Nobody saw any signs of a relationship, Kohler said.

The girl kept in contact with Sanborn up through her senior year in high school, when he begin teaching there and "she would continue to seek him out -- to go to his study hall for help," Kohler said.

For whatever reason, the girl made up the allegations about sexual contact, Kohler said.

"We don't know what hit the switch -- perhaps it was because of his refusal to go along with the crush situation," he said.

"There were no signs the relationship existed," Kohler added. "No sign of hickeys, no observed embrace, no intimate conversations -- there were none."

In legal wrangling after the jury left for the day, Kohler complained to Judge Evans about late disclosure on the part of the prosecution.

The prosecution obtained cell phone records from Sanborn and the cell phone the girl was using in 2005 and "only very recently disclosed that to the defense," Kohler said.

Merkins said she recently obtained the records through an administrative warrant to rebut apparent plans by the defense to argue that there was limited contact between Sanborn and the girl.

"I don't want to confuse the jury with 150 pages of phone records that cover a more extended period (seven months instead of four months) than we have here," Kohler told Evans.

"It is relevant," Merkins told Evans. "They are (downplaying) the amount of contact they had with each other. The fact that they're attacking ... that (the girl's) credibility will be at issue -- I don't see any problem with the jury having phone records to look at."

Evans said that during any criminal trial, discovery continues to happen until late in the process.

"The phone records are relevant to the case, they were disclosed shortly after they were obtained -- there's no disclosure violation," Evans said. "I do not believe they're prejudicial -- if they are inadmissible for some other reason, we'll have to address that later."

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