Former teacher, coach sentenced to 12 years in prison for abusing minors

A former teacher and volunteer basketball coach has been sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for sexually abusing children he once oversaw. 

On Feb. 2 Hennepin County District Court sentenced Aaron Hjermstad to 144 months for sexually abusing minors while he was employed by the Mastery School, volunteered at Hospitality House, and coached basketball at Best Academy and Mastery School in Minneapolis. 

The sentencing stems from Hjermstad’s sexual abuse of four minor boys he came in contact with between 2015 and 2020.

According to criminal complaints, in May 2015 a boy reported to Brooklyn Center Police Department that his basketball coach, identified as Hjermstad, touched him inappropriately while he was staying overnight at his home following a Timberwolves game. Investigators believe the incident happened in November or December of 2014. However, he was never charged in the incident and in 2016 he was hired as a teacher at Mastery School and coached for Mastery School and Best Academy in Minneapolis.

In June 2020 Hjermstad was criminally charged for sexually abusing minors. Following the charge, another victim reported to law enforcement they were also sexually abused, and later filed a lawsuit alleging Hjermstad sexually abused him when he coached basketball at Mastery School and Best Academy between 2016 and 2018.

Following the reports of sexual abuse in 2020, other survivors came forward to report their own abuse during the 2015 complaint timeframe as well, which led to Hjermstad being criminally convicted. 

"So often children feel that sexual abuse is their fault. It is so important for these kids, and all survivors know that it’s not their fault – it’s never their fault when the adult they trust sexually abuses them," said attorney Jeff Anderson in a statement. "We applaud all the courageous survivors and their families that have come forward and shared their truth."

On November 18, 2021, Judge Martha Ann Holton-Dimick convicted Hjermstad for the abuses. However, following this verdict he was allowed to remain free until sentencing. He ultimately fled before being apprehended in Idaho with "a significant amount of electronic equipment," police said. 

Hjermstad is still facing criminal sexual assault charges for two other cases.