See more of the story

A veteran Cottage Grove police officer assigned to Park High School has been charged with sexually touching seven female students and soliciting one teen multiple times for nude photos.

Adam G. Pelton, 40, of River Falls, Wis., was charged Monday with three counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and four counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct in connection with incidents stretching from Sept. 1, 2018, until Oct. 4, 2019, about the time he went on administrative leave from the Police Department in the wake of an investigation.

Pelton appeared Tuesday in Washington County District Court and remained jailed in lieu of $50,000 bail ahead of a March 2 court appearance. Defense attorney Robert Fowler said he has yet to see much evidence in the case and had no comment.

Cottage Grove Police Chief Pete Koerner said in a statement following the charges that "as soon as allegations were brought forth, [the Police Department] responded immediately with a preliminary investigation. Within 24 hours, the case was turned over to an outside agency to conduct an independent investigation." The chief otherwise declined to comment.

According to the criminal complaint:

Reports by several students of "inappropriate sexual contact" initiated by Pelton prompted authorities to ask the Apple Valley Police Department to investigate. Students alleged that Pelton repeatedly initiated hugs from them during which he would touch their buttocks over their clothing.

Most of these interactions occurred in Pelton's private school office, which lacked video surveillance. However, video was located that showed Pelton initiating hugs with female students in the halls.

Several students also reported that Pelton would often call or refer to them as "beautiful" and "sweetheart." One of them disclosed that he told her that if he were her age, he would date her. She also said Pelton sent her Snapchat messages over summer break. In one of the messages, he made lunch plans with her.

During law enforcement questioning, the student said the girls didn't think they could report Pelton. "We aren't going to say anything, I mean, he's a police officer," read the complaint, which noted that three of the students were between the ages of 13 and 15, and four were 16 to 17 years old.

Another student stated that while receiving a hug Pelton would rest his hand on her buttocks, which would happen four to five days a week during school. She also reported receiving three requests over Snapchat to send him nude photographs, which the student never sent.

When questioned, Pelton denied touching any student's buttocks. He also initially denied asking any student for nude pictures, but he later acknowledged doing so, "as a joke."

To avoid any potential conflicts of interest, the Dakota County Attorney's Office is prosecuting the case.

Pelton has been a licensed law enforcement officer since 2009. He began working at Park High School during the 2018-19 school year after holding the same post at Cottage Grove Middle School starting in January 2017.

He's had no complaints or disciplinary action in his time on the force and received solid to exceptional annual job reviews, according to department records.

Pelton received a letter of commendation from the Police Department for negotiating with a woman on Aug. 8, 2015, who was threatening to jump from an overpass onto Hwy. 61. Pelton and two other officers grabbed the woman and brought her to safety.

He also served in the Minnesota Army National Guard in Kosovo, Iraq and Croatia, according to South Washington County School District records.