By Alexa Shrake
STURGEON BAY, Wis.—Fired Franklin College President Thomas Minar will face a jury trial set for March 2022 in his ongoing legal battle against charges of child sex crimes.
Thursday was Minar’s first appearance since a status conference in March. While the Door County Justice Center is open to the public, Minar appeared on Zoom. A plea deal has been offered to Minar several times, and he has refused.
In March, Judge David L. Weber gave Minar’s lawyers and the state 120 days to file any motions and prepare for pre-trial, which is the time the defense and state prepare evidence for the judge. No motions have been filed at this time.
One of Minar's lawyers, Brett Reetz, said if any motions are filed, it will be about any new evidence that may come up.
“We’re still conducting investigations into forensics, and that is wrapping up,” Reetz said.
Door County District Attorney Colleen Nordin said, “Either side can object to motions by writing a letter.”
Nordin said motions can suppress evidence and file any expert testimony.
Motions in limine, which are requests that are discussed without the jury present, are not included in the deadline and will occur closer to March. These motions might include calling the victims by their names or only showing screenshots of possible videos.
There will be another status conference at 9 a.m. Sept. 13 to go over any motions and updates with the judge.
In January 2020, Franklin College announced in an email to students and faculty that Minar was fired by the Board of Trustees after his arrest. At the time, Minar was in Wisconsin taking care of his elderly mother, who passed away in December 2020.
Minar, 57, has been charged with 12 counts of possession of child pornography, using a computer to facilitate a sex crime and exposing a child to harmful narrations. He was arrested in January 2020 by Sturgeon Bay police, who tracked him to a McDonald’s after conducting an undercover investigation on the dating app Grindr. Law enforcement alleges that chat records from Grindr show Minar planned to meet with a 15-year-old child.
The Sturgeon Police Department obtained a warrant to search Minar’s cell phone to see the Grindr chats and say they found child pornography.
Police dash cam footage shows police arresting Minar at night in a McDonald’s parking lot just outside of Sturgeon Bay’s downtown area.
The footage begins with Minar’s car being cornered by two police vehicles in the parking lot. He is told by Officer Brandon Shew that he is being detained. Shrew continues to question Minar while he is being driven to jail.
Shew explains to Minar that he works for a unit called Internet Crimes Against Children, or ICAC. Shew posed as a 15-year-old, “Tyler,” whom Minar spoke to on Grindr. Minar said he intended to meet up with “Tyler” for a “friendship” and “mentorship”.
“I’m not attracted to children, to be clear,” Minar said, explaining he’s attracted to younger men and that he may have been with 18-year-olds in the past.
Minar was released from custody on a $7,500 bail bond posted by his husband, Frank Becker. He is not allowed to use any social media or have unmonitored interactions with minors while awaiting the results of the case.
“Although he is presumed innocent until proven guilty, the evidence is strong,” Nordin said previously when Minar pleaded not guilty. “I am confident in the case.”
Alexa Shrake is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.