STURGEON BAY, Wis.—Fired Franklin College President Thomas Minar will face a jury trial in his ongoing legal battle against charges of child sex crimes after refusing a plea deal from prosecutors.
A trial date has not been set yet. Judge David L. Weber said because of COVID-19, there has not been a trial in Door County since January 2020. Minar’s trial likely won’t happen until sometime next year because of the backlog of trials waiting to be heard.
Mark Maciolek, one of Minar’s lawyers, asked for a five-day trial to offer additional evidence. But Door County District Attorney Colleen Nordin said her team needs only two days based on the witnesses the state has.
Nordin argued that the case does not need that many days for a trial, noting from her perspective there’s enough evidence to support the prosecution. Nordin said the prosecution plans to show search history and 12 to 13 images of child pornography they claim were found on Minar’s phone.
“It’s not a complicated series of facts,” Nordin said.
“It’s not that straightforward and simple,” Maciolek said.
Maciolek mentioned there are about 200,000 PDFs’ worth of evidence found on Minar’s phone. Minar’s legal team is planning to call two forensic experts and three lay witnesses.
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 use of a computer to facilitate a child sex crime in the state of Wisconsin has a penalty of 40 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. Exposing a child to harmful material in Wisconsin has a maximum penalty of 3.5 years in prison. Possession of child pornography in Wisconsin requires a three-year mandatory period in prison and a maximum of 25 years.
However, the jury will determine how long Minar may spend in prison if they find him guilty.
Darren Miller, a forensic investigator in Indiana, said files identified as child porography have a digital fingerprint called a hash value, which allows internet service providers to identify them. After tracking the individual’s IP address, they would notify the local police department.
Miller said that in Minar’s case, the attempted meetup in January 2020 would trigger the police to get a search warrant, leading to the seizure of his devices.
“Doing an in-person meet goes from a cell phone to your internet search history to grabbing all your devices,” Miller said.
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.
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 tape begins with Minar’s car being cornered by two police vehicles in the parking lot, and he is told by Officer Brandon Shew that he is being detained. Minar, dressed in a gray t-shirt, remains calm as police search him, responding in short sentences and head nods. The police officer continues to question Minar, hands cuffed behind him, in the police vehicle as he is 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.”
There will be another status conference at 10:10 a.m. June 10.
Taylor Wooten contributed reporting.