A Duluth man has pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a teenager 20 years ago.
Robert Kent Pioro, 62, entered a guilty plea on two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct Dec. 4 in Carlton’s Sixth Judicial Court stemming from incidents when he was a teacher and coach in the Carlton School District from 1999-2001, according to the criminal complaint.
Pioro began to “take notice” of the victim when she was in eighth grade practicing basketball in the Carlton High School gym, the complaint said. He allegedly began developing a close relationship with the victim while he was coaching her. The victim described their relationship initially like that of a father and daughter, according to the complaint.
Pioro eventually invited the victim to his Duluth home in October 2000 when she was 16 years old and his wife was out of town. Pioro, 42 at the time, laid the victim down on a daybed in his home and kissed her, the complaint said. The victim told authorities she "began to cry," but that Pioro "told her that families kiss on the lips," the complaint said. Pioro also told the victim he could lose his job if she told anyone.
The pair allegedly spent time alone together at Carlton High School, South Terrace Elementary School and Four Seasons Recreation Center in Carlton from December 2000 to January 2001, with Pioro kissing and hugging the victim on a regular basis. At the time, he was her basketball coach.
The complaint describes an escalation in the assaults, including intercourse. The assaults or attempted assaults detailed in the complaint happened in Carlton, Roseau, Kittson, St. Louis and Ramsey counties, as well as in Douglas County, Wisconsin.
In a statement to law enforcement, Pioro acknowledged he spent a lot of time with the victim, coaching her from 1999-2002. He initially denied any sexual contact with the victim, according to the complaint.
The crime is within the statute of limitations because the victim was under 18 at the time of the offense and reported it in November 2019. Minnesota law allows three years from the time of the report for a crime of this type if the victim is under 18, according to state statute.
At the time of his arrest, Pioro was working as a teacher at Lincoln Park Middle School in Duluth. In a statement in July, the district said he had been placed on administrative leave while it conducted an investigation. The district did not respond to questions from the Pine Journal about Pioro's current employment status.
Pioro is scheduled to be sentenced at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 5.