Minnesota 8th-grade teacher arrested on sexual abuse charges

A 28-year-old Richfield man who works as an eighth-grade gym teacher has been arrested on suspicion of criminal sexual conduct for allegedly repeatedly abusing his two younger cousins, who were 10 and 11 years old when the assaults started, in the basement of a family home over a period of eight years. 

Officers with the Bloomington Police Department arrested Matthew Anderson Bertsch at the FAIR School in Crystal, Minnesota, on Tuesday, Bloomington Police Chief Booker T. Hodges said in a press conference on Thursday afternoon. 

Hodges said the victims, who are both adults now, were in therapy and when they confronted Bertsch, he told them "next time" he would "tighten his belt and keep his pants on."

"I'm going to do him better. We're going to give him a pair of shorts," Hodges said as he held up shorts from an orange prison jumpsuit and put them below Bertsch's mug shot.  

The criminal complaint shows the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office sought a high bail for Bertsch due to "concerns over defendant’s access to children as he is currently employed as an eighth-grade teacher." Jail records show his bail was set at $300,000. He was booked into the Hennepin County Jail on Tuesday, where was still listed as an inmate on Thursday afternoon. 

Hodges said Bertsch taught at Plymouth Middle School last year and has had a license to teach in Minnesota since 2019. The charges do not relate to his job as a teacher.

"I feel really bad for the victims in this case. And as a parent, I'd have the same question. Are there more victims? Right now, we don't have any information to indicate that there's more victims. But we can't be sure," Hodges said.  

He asked that anyone with information about any other cases of abuse Bertsch may have committed call the department at 952-563-4900.

The case against Bertsch 

According to the criminal complaint, Bertsch was 18 years old when he allegedly started abusing his then 11-year-old cousin. Two years later, when Bertsch was 20 years old, he allegedly started additionally abusing another cousin, who was 10 when it began, according to the complaint. 

The abuse allegedly took place in the basement of a house in Bloomington between 2013 and 2019 when the two victims visited Bertsch’s father. 

In the basement, Bertsch allegedly often exposed himself to both boys and then would "pants" them — removing their pants and touching them, the complaint says.  

Later, when the children were about 14 and 15 years old, Bertsch allegedly started getting them drunk, after which he would pressure them to take off their clothes and then show them cell phone videos of him performing sexual acts, according to the complaint.  

Then, according to the complaint, Bertsch started to use Snapchat to send the boys photos of his penis. The victims told investigators that in the last two years of the abuse, Bertsch progressed to kissing them on the mouth and on their gentiles, according to the complaint. 

In one incident, Bertsch allegedly took photos of one of the boys while the boy was naked and sitting on a chair. 

Both victims are now adults. One of them told investigators he estimated that there had been over 100 instances of abuse and that during the period when the abuse occurred, the victims spent time at Bertsch’s home "almost every single weekend."

"These instances occurred at multiple family homes. They would occur when there were family gatherings," the complaint says, and when Bertsch was left in charge of two younger cousins.

Bertsch was charged with four crimes: criminal sexual conduct, two counts of criminal sexual conduct in the second-degree sexual involving multiple incidents with victims under 16 years of age, and a charge of using minors in pornographic work. He faces up to 30 years in prison on the most serious charge.