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Barnum coach faces sex crime charges

The Barnum girls basketball coach was arrested Tuesday, Jan. 19, for allegedly sexually assaulting one of his players.

Andrew John Palmer, 33, of Moose Lake was charged with three counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct in Carlton County Sixth District Court Thursday; each count is related to a different alleged sexual encounter.

According to the criminal complaint, the victim’s parents contacted local law enforcement on Sunday, Jan. 17, regarding a possible criminal sexual assault of their 17-year-old daughter by her basketball coach.

The girl was interviewed at First Witness Child Advocacy Center two days later, on Jan. 19, the day Palmer was arrested.

Palmer is her coach, the girl confirmed, stating that he began sending her messages on Snapchat last fall. (Snapchat is a messaging app in which pictures and messages are usually available for only a short time before they become inaccessible to their recipients.) He asked her to send photos of herself and talked about his dog. On Jan. 1, 2021 he invited her to his home in Moose Lake to see his dog and have a fire, she told the interviewer. Her coach was the only person there when she arrived; the dog was there, but no fire. They sat on a couch/bed and started watching a movie, when Palmer allegedly put his arm around her. The victim said he allegedly had vaginal sex with her, that it felt “not OK” and hurt, but that she felt pressure to have sex with him because he was her coach and she didn’t feel like she could say no.

The charges against Palmer are the same as those faced by Robert Pioro, who coached girls basketball in Carlton some 20 years ago, and pleaded guilty to two separate counts of felony third-degree criminal sexual conduct in December for actions taken when he was a coach in Carlton and afterward.

According to Minnesota State Statute, a person who engages in sexual penetration with another person is guilty 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.”

According to the criminal complaint, Palmer asked the victim to come to his house again approximately a week later, and again after a basketball game on Jan. 16, allegedly having sex with the victim both times. According to the criminal complaint, the victim stated that when she tried to say “no” to things he asked her to do, he would get mad at her.

She described his house and the furnishings inside in detail in the interview. According to the criminal complaint, when they searched Palmer’s home, the description matched what the victim said. Police also found two used condoms.

A 2005 Barnum grad, Palmer was in his second season as the girls basketball coach. He is not a teacher there, Barnum superintendent Mike McNulty confirmed Wednesday. McNulty offered no further information.

Judge Robert Macauley issued an order for conditional release during Palmer’s first hearing Thursday, Jan. 21. Palmer’s next hearing is set for March 8. The maximum sentence for third-degree criminal sexual conduct is 15 years or a $30,000 fine, or both.