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Morris Area High School principal facing criminal sexual conduct charges

MORRIS – Morris Area High School Principal Craig Peterson has been charged with four felony counts of criminal sexual conduct after allegedly assaulting an acquaintance at his home in Morris.

Peterson, 36, has been charged with two counts of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree and and two counts of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree. Peterson made his first appearance in Stevens County District Court on Thursday.

According to the complaint, the victim, age 30, arranged to meet Peterson at the American Legion in Morris on Saturday, Dec. 21 at about 9 p.m. After several drinks, the victim said she knew she was getting tipsy. Peterson and the victim decided to leave the bar and go to the bowling alley, but discovered it was closed. Peterson told the victim he had an air hockey table and pool table at his house and they agreed to go there, the complaint states.

In a statement, the victim told police that she felt tired on the drive over and either fell asleep or blacked out while Peterson was driving.

“The next memory the victim had was of being in the entryway of the defendant’s residence,” the complaint continues. “She could not recall what the entryway looked like but remembered a foul smell.

Her next memory is of waking up in the defendant’s bed” with Peterson on top of her. The victim told police that she pushed at Peterson’s chest, told him it hurt and asked him to stop.

In a statement to police, Peterson said the victim did not appear tired or intoxicated. Peterson confirmed they had sex, but could not recall any conversations during sex and denied that she pushed at his chest.

According to the complaint, Peterson took the victim back to her vehicle at the bar at about 12:30 a.m.

After collecting her thoughts, the victim drove to Stevens Community Medical Center where she reported the alleged assault.

Peterson was brought to the Stevens County Law Enforcement Center on Monday, Dec. 23 and provided a statement to police.

Peterson made his first appearance in Stevens County District Court on Thursday before Judge Gerald Seibel. Charges against him were read, but Peterson was not asked to enter a plea. Attorney Robert Dalager appeared with Peterson.   

Grant County Attorney Justin Anderson appeared via interactive TV representing Stevens County. He asked for the following conditions for release: that Peterson have no contact with the victim; that Peterson is prohibited from using alcohol or other controlled substances, with the exception of prescriptions and that he be subject to random drug testing; and that Peterson is prohibited from entering any establishments that serve or sell alcohol with the exception of grocery or convenience stores.  

Seibel set bail at $25,000 with conditions, $75,000 unconditional. Peterson’s next court appearance is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 30.

Morris Area Superintendent Scott Monson was in the courtroom for Peterson’s appearance Thursday morning. Following the hearing, Monson stated that Peterson had been placed on paid administrative leave as of Monday, Dec. 23. Monson said that he is in contact with the Minnesota School Board Association's legal counsel and could offer no other comment at that time.