October 31, 2005 in Idaho

Principal cleared of molestation charges

Associated Press
 

SANDPOINT – A Bonner County jury has cleared a principal of charges that he molested a former student.

After a five-day trial, a jury of seven women and five men acquitted Sigard Allen Jensen on Friday following almost three hours of deliberation.

Jensen, 60, of Athol, was accused of engaging in lewd acts with a minor and committing crimes against nature. He has denied he molested the young man.

“Absolutely not,” Jensen said when asked by defense attorney Gary Amendola if he had ever sexually abused the student. “Not once, not ever.”

Answering his lawyer’s questions about his life, Jensen spoke of attending Bible college and preaching at small churches in the central Montana towns of Roundup and Musselshell.

Jensen had been principal of A Lighthouse and Christ Centered Always Christian Academy, a private school in Sandpoint with about 22 students. He took a leave of absence in February after the student accused him of molesting him. Jensen was released from jail on $20,000 bail on the condition that he have no contact with anyone under age 18.

According to court documents, the male student said Jensen molested him beginning in 1998, when the student was 13, and continued through 2002, when the student dropped out of school.

The accuser said the abuse began when Jensen was principal of the Southside Christian School in Cocolalla.

That school closed in 2000. Jensen and some students, including the alleged victim, moved to the school in Sandpoint, which opened about 15 miles away in 2001.

Police learned of the allegations in October 2004, after the accuser sought help from a counselor at a high school in Pocatello.

Jensen’s defense attorneys told 1st District Judge Steve Verby there was little evidence to convict Jensen.

They said the accuser made up the claims to cover for his poor academic performance, not knowing the high school counselor he told in 2004 would go to police with his report.

Bonner County Prosecutor Phil Robinson told jurors Friday that there’s often little tangible evidence in child sexual molestation cases.

After the verdict on Friday, Jensen said he wanted to return to teaching.

“I want to be useful. I want to function. I want to make a difference,” he said.

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