Former teacher's sex abuse case put on hold

Thursday, June 11, 2015
Trent Prather

A former northwest Iowa teacher and Buena Vista County juvenile court officer may not have to stand trial for a suspected 2008 sex offense as long he meets a series of probation requirements.

Trent Prather was charged with third-degree sexual abuse in June 2014 after Storm Lake Police learned that he may have engaged in a sex act with a 14-year-old juvenile female.

As part of the deferred prosecution agreement filed Thursday, Prather will have to attend and successfully complete sex offender treatment services at the Residential Treatment Facility in Sheldon. The 27-year-old can't violate federal laws, state laws or city ordinances for the next year and he has to pay all court costs.

If Prather violates Thursday's terms, his case will return to the court calendar.

"He's been accused -- he hasn't been convicted. I don't know where a jury would fall on whether or not he did what he was accused of. Everybody has a right to be presumed innocent until they're shown to be guilty," Buena Vista County Attorney Dave Patton said. "The allegations, of course, are horrible."

Prather supervised community service work for the Buena Vista County Juvenile Court's Office in 2008. The investigation suggests Prather promised to eliminate the 14-year-old female's court-assigned community service hours in exchange for sex acts.

More than five years passed before investigators had enough information to file a 2014 charge that may be deferred a year from now.

"One of the issues is always whether or not there will be re-victimization of the victim," Patton said. "The allegations in this case involved a minor who would have to get on the stand and tell all kinds of gory details. Often, it depends on the strength of that person -- whether they were willing to go through it again and what the downside might be of going through that again."

Prather was 20 years old when the contact in question took place between Sept. 1, 2008, and Oct. 31, 2008, according to the Storm Lake Police Department.

"He was someone who showed an interest in juvenile court and working with youth and therefore was an intern that worked with juvenile court services, but was only qualified because he was a college student at the time," Patton said.

Prather was 25 years old and didn't yet face charges as he began the 2013-14 school year as a fourth-grade teacher at Harris-Lake Park Elementary. His students were already dismissed for the summer when he was arrested June 16, 2014, in Estherville on behalf of Buena Vista County authorities.

Since a conviction isn't part of the deferred prosecution agreement, Patton said Prather will not be placed on the Iowa Sex Offender Registry for the next 10 years.

"Because of that sex registry issue, he hasn't tendered a guilty plea," Patton said. "He's going straight into probation and if he's not successful, he's going to face sex registry. If he is successful, that won't be a consequence he'll have to be concerned about."

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