Ex-teacher Skinness sentenced to 12 years in child sexual abuse case

Published 10:20 am Tuesday, June 3, 2014

An Austin resident and former Stewartville teacher was sentenced to 12 years in prison Monday in Olmsted County District Court for sexually abusing a girl during the 2005-2006 school year at Stewartville’s Bonner Elementary School.

Francis Skinness, 68, was found guilty of three counts of felony criminal sexual conduct in March.

Francis Skinness

Francis Skinness

The victim said the abuse happened when she was about 8 years old in a storage closet near the classroom, according to court records. The victim said Skinness fondled her, forced her to touch him and give him oral sex, among other acts.

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Skinness was convicted of second-degree criminal sexual conduct in October 2011 and was re-sentenced to 180 days in jail last March for skipping sex offender treatment classes. However, he was released early.

Skinness’ previous conviction stemmed from when he was a teacher at Bonner Elementary in Stewartville in 2009. Skinness inappropriately touched a 9-year-old girl on several occasions, according to a court complaint. The complaint said Skinness put his hand down the girl’s shirt, touched her breasts and put his lips on her ears. According to Olmsted County police reports, several girls in Skinness’ third-grade class complained of feeling uncomfortable around him, particularly when sitting on the “hot seat” with him, on which students would have to sit between his legs.

Skinness said his actions were not sexually motivated; however, Skinness admitted to invading the girl’s space.

Skinness previously skipped a sex offender class in 2012, for which a judge found to be “intentional and inexcusable,” and sentenced Skinness to another 30 days in jail.

Skinness was on seven years’ probation and was originally ordered to serve 30 days in the Olmsted County jail, pay $1,000 in fines, including restitution, participate in a sex offender program and serve 100 hours of community service.

Skinness previously taught at Banfield Elementary in the 1990s. He was investigated for sexually abusing a third-grader in 1992 but no charges were filed.

—Matt Peterson contributed to this report.