As the Barnum girls basketball team prepared to take the floor against Cloquet on Tuesday, Jan. 19, one person was notably absent: their coach.
About an hour before the game was scheduled to start, Andrew John Palmer was arrested by the Moose Lake Police Department.
Palmer, 33, of Moose Lake, was charged with three counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a 17-year-old person and in which he was in a position of authority over the person.
According to the complaint, Palmer began interacting with the victim last fall on social media, asking for photos of them and talking about his dog.
On New Year’s Day, Palmer invited the victim to his home for a fire, but when the victim arrived there was no fire. The victim went into Palmer’s home to watch a movie, during which Palmer sexually assaulted the person.
Twice more over the next 15 days, Palmer allegedly sexually assaulted the victim at his home. On Sunday, Jan. 17, MLPD received a report by a parent of a suspected sexual assault of their child.
Palmer is not a teacher in the school district, but was in his second year coaching the girls basketball team.
Barnum Public Schools superintendent Mike McNulty said the district learned Palmer had been arrested during a school board meeting Tuesday night.
“We are just following along with legal authorities and cooperating with them on everything,” McNulty said. “Then we’ll just do your basic internal investigation stuff that you do in conjunction with them.”
Palmer has been placed on paid administrative leave while the investigations are conducted, which is the district’s standard policy, according to McNulty.
The district conducted a background check prior to Palmer’s hire in 2019 and McNulty said nothing concerning was revealed at that time.
“There was nothing down this line,” he said. “I think there was one minor traffic thing from like 15 years ago, probably when he was really young.”
If convicted, Palmer faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, $30,000 fine or both on each of the three charges.
This story was updated at 6:51 p.m. Jan. 21 to correct Andrew Palmer's middle name. It was originally posted at 2:10 p.m. Jan. 21. The Pine Journal regrets the error.
This story was updated at 11:30 a.m. Jan. 22 to include comments from Barnum Superintendent Mike McNulty. It was originally posted at 2:10 p.m. Jan. 21.