A former theater director at Anoka Middle School for the Arts has been charged with sexually abusing four teenage students.
Jefferson Fietek, 46, was arrested Thursday in Malden, Mass., where he lives, and arraigned in court on an arrest warrant and a fugitive from justice charge. He was being held there pending extradition to Minnesota, according to Malden police Capt. Mark Gatcomb.
Fietek taught at the Anoka school from 2005 until he resigned in June 2019 to become an assistant professor at Emerson College in Boston. Three complaints were filed against Fietek while he taught in Anoka, but none resulted in disciplinary action.
Abuse allegations began surfacing late last month, and Emerson officials announced Fietek was no longer employed there without saying whether he resigned or was fired.
The Anoka County Sheriff's Office launched an investigation June 25 after receiving two different allegations of abuse against Fietek, with at least two other alleged victims coming forward.
Charges filed July 15 in Anoka County District Court accuse Fietek of sexually abusing four male students between the ages of 14 and 16, from 2009 until his departure from Minnesota last year. He faces seven felony criminal sexual conduct charges in all — four first-degree, one second-degree and two third-degree.
According to the charges, the abuse occurred at the school (formerly Fred Moore Middle School), Fietek's former home in Coon Rapids, and other locations including parks and a theater camp in Crow Wing County that the defendant co-founded.
Fietek is charged with first-degree sexual assault against three victims and engaging in oral sex with others. He allegedly watched pornographic videos with some of them and engaged in other sexual activity while warning them not to tell anyone.
In some cases, Fietek brought students back to the Anoka school's theater after hours, where abuse allegedly took place in dressing rooms and an attic used to store costumes. Some parents let Fietek take their children on day trips outside of school, to the movies or the Mall of America.
After Fietek moved to Massachusetts, the mother of one victim said he purchased an airplane ticket for the victim to visit him, according to the charges. The victim said he provided nude photos of himself at Fietek's request 20 to 30 times until he realized "it was kind of weird for a grown man to be asking for a 15-year-old's nudes."
One victim was abused for three years by Fietek, according to the charges, beginning when he was 15. The victim told investigators: "At the time ... I was special to him, you know, and so I wanted to do whatever it was that I could to make him happy."
Fietek first contacted one of the students through the online dating app Grindr, while other students were cast in his theater productions.
The Minnesota Stonewall DFL Caucus recently revoked an award presented to Fietek in 2011 after learning about the allegations. The caucus endorsed Fietek in his losing campaign for the Minnesota House in 2014.
"We've recently learned of stories of students who have been manipulated, groomed, and sexually assaulted by Fietek," caucus officials said in a Facebook post. "We apologize for our role in giving Fietek a platform and bolstering his reputation over multiple years."
Kim Hyatt • 612-673-4751