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Grand Forks coach charged with luring 12-year-old girl

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GRAND FORKS - A former Edmore teacher and coach working this year in Grand Forks schools was accused Wednesday of luring a 12-year-old girl from his former school with sexual messages and photos online.

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Jeremy Patrick Thompson, 28, was arrested Wednesday and appeared in a Grand Forks courtroom on two counts of luring by computer someone he knew was younger than 15. Each count is a felony with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

State District Judge Lawrence Jahnke set Thompson's bail at $50,000 and scheduled his preliminary hearing for Feb. 13 when he can formally enter a plea. Thompson remained in the Grand Forks County jail Wednesday night.

Thompson is a "paraeducator " at South Middle School, Schroeder Middle School and Red River High School, and a coach at South, according to Grand Forks School District officials Wednesday. They said he is on unpaid leave pending the outcome of his case.

The charges he faces do not involve any Grand Forks student, and he passed a background check before he was hired in October 2011, according to the officials.

Thompson graduated from high school in Hillsboro and attended the University of North Dakota.

He told Jahnke he had been teaching in Edmore until he moved to Grand Forks in early 2011 because he got married and his wife worked here.

The probable cause affidavit from Grand Forks police Detective Mike Jennings alleges the following:

On Jan. 3, the mother of the Edmore girl called the Cavalier County Sheriff's Department after finding "inappropriate" messages from Thompson on her daughter's Facebook account.

The department called Grand Forks police detectives, who, posing as the girl, contacted Thompson online.

In online chats to the girl's Facebook account, Thompson told her he imagined her nude and having sex with him. One message included a password to access his email account, where he had uploaded explicit pictures of himself.

Thompson then asked to meet the girl, in Grand Forks or Edmore, for sexual activity that he described.

Using his password, detectives viewed the explicit photos and messages he sent Friday and Monday.

Police interviewed Thompson on Tuesday, and Detective Jennings said Thompson admitted sending "inappropriate" messages to the girl, and that he knew she was 12.

On Wednesday, prosecutor Jason McCarthy told Judge Jahnke that, while no other charges are being considered, the forensic search of Thompson's computer equipment, assisted by the state's Bureau of Criminal Investigations, might turn up evidence of other crimes.

Appearing in court via TV link from jail, Thompson told the judge he would apply for a court-appointed attorney.

He asked for a "more reasonable" bail than the $100,000 amount McCarthy recommended.

Citing the age of the alleged victim and the nature of the charges, McCarthy said the amount maybe should be even higher.

But Thompson said he has no criminal history and needs to get out of jail to keep his part-time job at a local store. He said he would go nowhere except to work and to visit family and would stay off the Internet.

McCarthy corroborated that Thompson appears to have no criminal history.

Jahnke agreed to reduce the bail and, at McCarthy's request, ordered Thompson to have no contact with the girl or her family, to stay at least 50 yards away from any Grand Forks school and to stay off the Internet.

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