Judge grants protection to women accusing former Chadron State student Trustee of sexual assault

A Dawes County judge granted protection orders requested by two women who accused a former Chadron State College student and former political appointee of Governor Pete Ricketts of sexual assault.

Ricketts had chosen Caleb Tegtmeier to represent Chadron State on the Nebraska State College Board of Trustees in January.

Now the governor has revoked the appointment and Tegtmeier has withdrawn from the school and moved out of the area, according to Chadron State and Tegtmeier’s lawyer.

In February, two female Chadron State students accused Tegtmeier of unwanted sexual touching in a college dormitory and requested protection from Dawes County Judge Russell Harford.

In a court document describing evidence for an April hearing, the women’s lawyer said three other female students allege they also had similar experiences with Tegtmeier.

Harford wrote “It is clear to the Court that the Respondent [Tegtmeier] prays [sic] on vulnerable female students and takes advantage of them sexually under the guise of being there to help and support them,” in one decision to grant protection. No criminal charges have been filed.

Tegtmeier’s attorney did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The protection orders mean Tegtmeier cannot contact the women.

Tegtmeier is challenging the basis for the protection orders and is asking the judge to vacate the orders. In a hearing on June 27 regarding one of the bans on contact, Rebecca Chasek, Tegtmeier’s lawyer, argued he did not act without the woman’s consent and halted sexual contact once she asked him to stop.

Danielle Larson, the attorney representing the two women accusing Tegtmeier, said her client had “repeatedly set boundaries with Caleb, and he repeatedly pushed against those physical boundaries. She told him it was not OK and he’d push again.”

Harford rejected Tegtmeier’s characterization of consent when he decided to overrule the motion.

“The Court does not agree with the assertion by Respondent [Tegtmeier] that an aggressor can initiate sexual contact with another and until the recipient of that contact says ‘stop’ that the initial contact was consensual,” the judge wrote.

Ricketts put Tegtmeier’s nomination to the state college board on hold after Chadron State’s school newspaper wrote about the accusations made in court. The governor has now revoked the appointment. A spokesperson said Ricketts wasn’t aware of the allegations against Tegtmeier when he made his pick.

But before reaching the governor’s desk, Tegtmeier’s application to represent Chadron State passed through college President Randy Rhine and NSCS Chancellor Paul Turman.

“Working as a Student Trustee would allow me to voice the views and opinions of the students of Chadron State. I want to give the Board of Trustees an honest view of the College, as whether positive or negative, they deserve honesty and hard work from a Student Trustee,” the then-sophomore wrote in his application to become the board’s primary liaison with Chadron State students.

Nebraska Public Media News obtained Tegtmeier’s application through a records request with the governor’s office.

Tegtmeier is the son of Elizabeth Tegtmeier, who is running to represent most of western Nebraska on the state’s board of education.

“While my son disagreed with the allegations and the process at Chadron State, it’s better for everyone if he moves on so that all of the students can get the best possible education,” Elizabeth Tegtmeier said in an emailed statement. “My commitment to serving Nebraska’s schools, students, and teachers on the Nebraska State Board of Education has not wavered and remains strong.”

A spokesperson for the college system and Chadron State said the two organizations would find a way for the northwest Nebraska school to be represented on the board of trustees.

In a statement, the spokesperson declined to comment on specifics, citing regulations that protect student privacy, but said “The Board of Trustees for the Nebraska State Colleges and Chadron State College take all reports of sexual harassment and the safety and well-being of our students seriously.”

This story comes from the Midwest Newsroom, an investigative journalism collaboration including IPR, KCUR 89.3, Nebraska Public Media News, St. Louis Public Radio and NPR.

By Matt Wynn

Matt Wynn is the Executive Director of the Nebraska Journalism Trust, which launched and funds the Flatwater Free Press. He has spent 13 years at news organizations across the country, most recently on the investigative team at USA Today. He lives in his hometown of Omaha with his wife, Sarah, and three children.