Matthew Ellsworth: Sex with student not criminal because it happened during summer

Ellsworth argues he didn't commit a crime a crime since the sex happened after the school year ended.
Ellsworth argues he didn't commit a crime a crime since the sex happened after the school year ended.

Then-teacher Matthew Ellsworth had consensual sex in his St. Paul apartment with an underage former student during the summer after her junior year in high school.

Ellsworth, 36, lost a teaching job and now faces a criminal sexual conduct charge as a result of the tryst. But his attorney, arguing yesterday during the first day of Ellsworth's trial, claims the sex wasn't criminal because it occurred during the summer, when Ellsworth wasn't in a "position of authority" over the girl.

While it may be immaterial in a court of law, the girl's testimony makes it sound as though she instigated the relationship with Ellsworth. She even said she still wants to be with the former teacher.

According to the Pioneer Press, Ellsworth was the girl's English teacher at Spectrum High School, a charter school in Elk River, during the spring of 2011. She was then a junior.

During the spring semester, the girl began to spend time with Ellsworth in the computer lab, and eventually the two began exchanging text messages outside school. She testified that nothing inappropriate happened between the two during the school year.

Last summer, she began to stay at his apartment from time to time while he was out of town to look after his pets. The tryst began one evening when Ellsworth was emotionally discussing his terminally ill mother with the girl, who was sitting on his couch at the time.

"I was trying to make him feel better, so that's why I hugged him" and then kissed him, she said, adding that Ellsworth was "extremely hesitant" to engage in sexual relations.

The girl's family eventually caught wind of the relationship and alerted St. Paul police. After he was charged with criminal sexual conduct in October, Ellsworth quit a teaching job he had just started at Highview Middle School in Mounds View.

The 'if it happened after the semester ended then it's okay' argument is one made by countless graduate school teaching assistants each year in an effort to morally justify flings with students. We'll now see if it holds water in a court of law.

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