Former coach charged with sexual assault
July 10, 2020
A former Carlton teacher and girls basketball coach faces felony charges of criminal sexual conduct stemming from allegations of sexually abusing a prior student more than 20 years ago.
Robert Kent Pioro, 62, was charged in Carlton County Sixth District Court on Thursday, July 2, with three counts of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree for engaging in sexual penetration with a person who was 16 years old when he was in a position of authority over the victim.
Each charge stems from a different incident that occurred in Carlton County — at Four Seasons Recreation Center, South Terrace Elementary School and Carlton High School — all between October 2000 and March 2001.
According to the criminal complaint, the Carlton County Sheriff’s Office received a call in November 2019 from the Family Pathways Victim Advocacy office in Carlton reporting a client was at their facility to report a sexual assault. The complaint states the officer spoke with an 36-year-old female reporting a pattern of sexual assault who alleges she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by Pioro beginning when she was 16.
The complaint states that the woman said Pioro began to take notice of her when she was in eighth grade and shooting baskets in a gym. Her sophomore year, he began to develop a close relationship with the complainant, spending significant time with her while she practiced basketball in the morning at the school before classes began, the report said. He also allegedly bought her gifts and asked her to babysit his children.
The woman said the relationship was initially like that of a father. According to the complaint, she said that changed in October 2000, when he invited her to his home in Duluth, when his wife was away, and allegedly kissed her. She was 16. He was 42.
That fall he asked her to be his teacher’s assistant at South Terrace, she reported, but they spent time alone at both Carlton schools and the Four Seasons Recreation Center. He allegedly hugged and kissed her on a regular basis, then things accelerated physically that fall and winter and the woman alleges multiple instances of digital penetration in Carlton County, hence the charges here.
According to the criminal complaint, the woman said Pioro invited her to his Duluth home in February or March of 2001 and had sex with her on his bed there for the first time.
The complaint goes on to allege multiple instances of sexual assault in St. Louis County, Ramsey County and Douglas County, Wisconsin. According to Carlton County Attorney Lauri Ketola, St. Louis County also filed charges against Pioro on July 2 related to the allegations.
In an interview with law enforcement, Pioro confirmed he coached the then-teenager in Carlton and in Wisconsin, and said he was like a dad to her. He denied any sexual contact with her.
The fact that the alleged crimes are two decades old does not mean a person can’t be found guilty, Ketola said. “A lot of times in cases like this there’s no physical evidence, just what somebody says,” she said. “There was a lot of corroboration in this case — other people who noticed or observed things.”
Pioro is not in custody and there are no future hearings listed yet on the court register of actions in the case. Ketola said because of the pandemic, the courts weren’t setting dates on new matters. She expects a date to be set for a first appearance soon, and said Pioro was aware charges had been filed.
According to Minnesota State Statute, a person who engages in sexual penetration with another person is guilt of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree in a number of different scenarios, but one of those is “when the complainant is at least 16 but less than 18 years of age and the actor is more than 48 months older and in a current or recent position of authority over the complainant. Neither mistake as to the complainant’s age nor consent to the act by the complainant is a defense.”
Editor's note: Robert Pioro's age was corrected to 62 in this online version, because the original story listed the wrong age.