WILLISTON, N.D.-A teacher at a Williston private school has been charged with three counts of gross sexual imposition..
Everest Moore, 28, was arrested Friday afternoon. Moore, who is a teacher at St. Joseph Catholic School, is accused of fondling three girls, all under the age of 15.
Investigators at the Williston Police Department said they started investigating when someone who is legally mandated to report suspected sexual assault or child abuse told them of the allegations in mid-February.
"The case is very much still actively under investigation," Sgt. Detective Danielle Hendricks of the Williston police said Monday.
Hendricks said police were unable to release much information because the investigation is still going on. She declined to say how Moore knew the three girls he's accused of sexually assaulting.
According to charging documents filed in Northwest District Court Moore is accused of touching the buttocks of one girl and the buttocks or breasts of two others. He is also accused of putting one girl's hand on his genitals.
Police said the assaults happened between April 2016 and last month. The ages of the girls were not included in the charging documents.
At a bond hearing Monday afternoon, Jeff Nehring, Moore's defense attorney, said the time of the allegations was vague.
"It says there's one incident that happened one time in 540 days," Nehring told Northwest District Judge Josh Rustad. "The nature of the allegations are very suspect in this case."
There was no affidavit of probable cause filed in the case because investigators gave oral testimony to a judge and the judge approved an arrest warrant.
Williams County State's Attorney Marlyce Wilder said that was done because of the sensitive nature of the allegations and to protect the identities of the girls.
Wilder asked Rustad to set Moore's bond at $100,000 because of the seriousness of the accusations.
"This is one of those situations we face, unfortunately, where the defendant was in a situation of trust with the victims and violated that trust in the most egregious way possible," she said.
Nehring asked the judge to set bond at $25,000 and allow Moore to post 10 percent to be released.
Rustad said he thought that amount was too low, but that he also didn't think $100,000 was appropriate.
"I need a significant amount (of bond) in place," he said before setting bond at $50,000.
If Moore posts bond he will not be allowed to have contact with anyone under 18 apart from his children and he will not be allowed to have any contact with St. Joseph Catholic Church or school.
Nehring said Moore is going to fight the charges.
"My client adamantly denies the allegations," he said.
Moore has taught at St. Joseph for five years, according to Nehring. He is also an assistant coach for the Williston High School football team and had been head coach for the Williston Middle School Track and Field team, but did not have a contract for this season, according to Williston Public School District No. 1.
Moore has been licensed as a teacher in North Dakota since 2013, and his current license, which was issued in 2016, is good through 2022, according to the North Dakota Education Standards and Practices Board. He graduated from the University of Mary with a degree in physical education.
Moore and his wife were also listed as the contacts for the St. Joseph Catholic Church youth group.
Julie Quamme, principal at St. Joseph, said she couldn't comment on the situation, but did offer a statement the school previously sent out.
On Feb. 18, the school received allegations of employee misconduct, she said. The employee in question, who was not named in the statement, was placed on administrative leave and law enforcement was notified. The employee was not allowed on school property after being put on administrative leave, Quamme said.
School officials are cooperating with law enforcement, Quamme said.
"Any comment before the investigation is completed would be premature," she said.
The school is committed to both the safety and well-being of students and protecting the privacy rights of all involved, the statement read.
Hendricks said anyone with questions or information about the investigation should contact the Williston police at 701-572-1212.