Former Carlton teacher, coach sentenced to nearly three years
February 12, 2021
A former Carlton teacher and girls basketball coach was sentenced Friday to 33 months in Minnesota state prison for criminal sexual conduct charges stemming from a sexual relationship with a student athlete nearly 20 years ago.
Robert Kent Pioro, 63, pleaded guilty and was sentenced for four counts of felony third-degree criminal sexual conduct for engaging in sexual penetration with a person who was 16 years old when he was in a position of authority over the victim.
The guilty pleas were the result of deals with both Carlton County and St. Louis County prosecutors, each with three charges based on the location of various sexual encounters between Pioro and the victim, who was a student at Carlton High School. Two other identical charges were dismissed.
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 there to report a sexual assault. The officer spoke with a 36-year-old female reporting a pattern of sexual assault by Pioro beginning when she was 16.
The woman, identified only by her initials K.M., said the relationship was initially like as with a father, from ninth grade into her sophomore year. 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. They spent time alone at both Carlton schools and the Four Seasons recreation center. He hugged and kissed her on a regular basis, then things accelerated physically that fall and winter. Pioro invited K.M. to his Duluth home in February or March of 2001 and had sex with her there for the first time. “Not once, twice or the six times he was charged with,” K.M. told the court Friday. “Rather, he sexually abused me on a regular basis over a long period of time. His assaults were deliberate and thoughtfully orchestrated.”
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.”
In the courtroom Friday, Pioro apologized for the pain and suffering he caused K.M. and her family as well as his own.
“The pain I have, and have continued to go through every day, has stayed with me and always will,” he said. “The stint in prison will do nothing compared to what I have done in my community. You have two things in your life, your name and your dignity. Once you lose one, the other follows soon after. … When you walk down the street, people look at you differently. I never thought there would be a day that I’d appreciate a mask. I’m truly sorry for what I’ve done.”
Pioro’s attorneeys asked for a dispositional departure from the recommended sentence, arguing that the Duluth Institute found Pioro appropriate for outpatient treatment and at low risk to reoffend. He has no prior criminal record and has shown remorse. He is also concerned about medical conditions that could become unmanageable in prison.
Assistant Carlton County attorney Jeffrey Boucher, arguing for the prosecution, opposed the motion. He asked the court to consider the many levels of trust that Pioro violated as a teacher, coach and community member.
“Though time has passed, [K.M.] was a child. Think of the importance of those years of adolescence, how much our perception of ourselves and our place in the world is shaped in these years, and the impact of Mr. Pioro’s actions, the weight she described carrying this secret for many years while Mr. Pioro continued teaching in the community and coaching for many many years.”
Boucher also argued it appeared Pioro’s remorse was more about prosecution and the impact it’s had on his life than what he did.
K.M. also addressed the courtroom, sitting directly across from Pioro. She asked the judge to refuse Pioro’s request, asking that he go to prison.
“I’m afraid that if he doesn’t, it will be as if what he did and how much I’ve suffered doesn’t matter,” she said. “I’m afraid that if he doesn’t, teachers and coaches will continue to abuse children without stopping to consider the consequences. I’m afraid that if he doesn’t, victims won’t bother reporting their abuser because it won’t be worth it.”
“If you decide that Mr. Pioro deserves less than the harshest punishment possible, what I am most afraid of is not knowing how many more years it will take for me to realize that it wasn’t my fault and that I did nothing wrong.”
Judge Robert Macaulay sentenced Pioro to 33 months incarceration with the Minnesota Department of Corrections. Although he initially stayed the sentences for Pioro’s first three guilty pleas, Macaulay altered the sentences to run concurrently, as the 33-month sentence was the longest one.
Macaulay said Pioro would likely serve two-thirds of his sentence — 22 months — followed by a period of supervised release for 11 months and five years of conditional release. He must provide DNA samples to the state and register as a predatory offender after his release from prison. Pioro was handcuffed and taken to jail immediately following the hearing.