Aaron Knodel, the West Fargo “teacher of the year” who was put on trial after being accused of having a sexual relationship with a 17 year old female student, saw the last two of the criminal charges he was facing dismissed by judge today.
Knodel was acquitted on three other charges earlier this year.
No doubt, Knodel and his family are breathing a bit easier now that the lengthy trial process is over, but it seems to this observer that the defendant has been dealt one last indignity.
“Judge Steven McCullough ruled on Monday that the charges be dismissed without prejudice, which is a legal term meaning Knodel can only be re-charged if new evidence is found,” Wendy Reuer reports for the Fargo Forum.
That’s unfortunate, because it means that even as Knodel and his family try to put their lives back together after this ordeal they still have the possibility of another trial hanging over their heads, slight though it may be.
The double jeopardy clause of our Constitution prohibits the state from trying a citizen multiple times for the same offense, but that clause only kicks in when a jury is allowed to render a verdict on the charges. Or unless the charges are dismissed with prejudice, which is something Knodel’s defense team requested.
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]…Knodel is now faced with the challenge of putting his life back together with the possibility of another indictment hanging over his head should prosecutors did up new evidence.[/mks_pullquote]
An honest observer would have to admit that Knodel was, basically, acquitted of all charges. Unanimously on the first three charges, and nearly unanimously on the last two. Were it not for a juror who failed to disclose a past incident of sexual assault and then had to be hospitalized after being the lone holdout among the 12 jurors for a conviction on the final count, Knodel likely would have been acquitted on all charges.
Now not only has he been denied full acquittal by a less-than-honest juror, but Knodel is now faced with the challenge of putting his life back together with the possibility of another indictment hanging over his head should prosecutors did up new evidence.
And they might. Some might argue that the prosecutors didn’t have enough evidence for trial the first time they put Knodel through the wringer, why should we trust in their forbearance on this matter going forward?
Ask yourself this: If you’re Aaron Knodel, how do you get a job again when any would-be employer could learn of the possibility of reindictment through a quick Google search? Even once the statute of limitations expires on this matter – sometime next year I believe – Knodel will still have to live with the ignominy of having been accused of charges were merely dismissed without prejudice.
Surely justice in this matter could have been better served.