HUDSON — Bail has been set at $100,000 cash in St. Croix County Circuit Court for a Glenwood City High School teacher charged with five felonies related to sex crimes involving a teenaged girl.
Peter L.O. Gaustad, who also is a member of the Glenwood City Common Council, appeared before Judge Edward Vlack April 6 on two felony counts of child sexual exploitation as well as felony counts of exposing a child to harmful material, causing a child between the ages of 13 and 18 to view sexual activity and using a computer to facilitate a child sex crime.
Gaustad allegedly exchanged sexually explicit images and messages with a 15-year-old high school sophomore in Missouri.
According to the criminal complaint, the Boone County Sheriff’s Office in Missouri referred the case to law enforcement officials with the Wisconsin Department of Justice after a detective with the Boone County Missouri Sheriff’s Department received a telephone call from a concerned citizen on March 23 about her 15-year-old daughter, who had been talking with a 45-year-old man from Wisconsin.
The girl told her mother she was in contact with a 45-year-old teacher who lives in Glenwood City, Wisconsin, and she had used Whisper and Snapchat to communicate. The girl also said she had told him she was a sophomore in high school, that she had sent several nude photographs to him, and he had sent nudes to her, according to the complaint.
The girl eventually told her mother the man’s name was Peter Gaustad, the complaint notes.
The Boone County Missouri detective queried law enforcement databases for Peter Gaustad from Glenwood City, Wisconsin, and located a 45-year-old male subject. The detective checked the Glenwood City school district staff directory and located a Peter Gaustad, who teaches ninth grade social studies.
During an interview, the girl told the detective in Missouri she had used the phone application Whisper because you could post anonymous messages. One of the girl’s posts stated, “I’ve always wanted to date a teacher, but then I remember, oh yeah, I’m a student.” The girl said she regretted putting up the message, but at the time, she “felt like she could because nobody knew her.” Later on, the girl confirmed the man named Peter had responded to that post, according to the complaint.
The girl told the Boone County detective several people had initially responded to the post with encouraging comments, and one man had responded with a private message, “think how fun that would be.” The girl said she responded with, “sure.” The girl said she communicated with the man through Whisper but then started to feel guilty because she had a boyfriend, so she stopped communicating with him for a while, according to the complaint.
The girl went on to tell the Boone County detective after not talking with the man for several months, she contacted him again in January and said she had been using Snapchat on her phone. She told the detective his name was Peter Gaustad, that he is a social studies teacher, is divorced with a son, has been teaching for 19 years, lives in Wisconsin, and she believed him to be 45 years old, the complaint states.
The detective asked the girl what Peter was saying to make her want to continue talking with him after the few months when she did not contact him, and the girl said Peter was easy to talk to, wanted to know who she was, asked simple questions, was supportive and made her feel comfortable. The girl confirmed from the very beginning she had said she was a sophomore in high school, and Peter had confirmed he was a teacher who had been teaching for 19 years, according to the complaint.
The complaint goes on to say the girl talked with Gaustad just about every night, and that over time, the pictures became more sexually graphic. The girl said she believed five to eight of the images involved Gaustad’s genitalia although she never saved any of the images. The girl said most of the time, the Snapchat messages would happen during the night. When asked if she had ever sent any nude photos of herself through Snapchat, the girl said she had sent nudes of her breast, buttocks and genitalia, according to the complaint.
When asked if she had saved any of the conversations, the girl said, “no.” The girl went on to say she had mentioned to Gaustad she had saved some of their conversations. He had asked why, and she said so she could go back and read them again, and he had told her “that made him nervous” so she had deleted them. The girl said Gaustad had made a comment on Snapchat about her boyfriend and said the boyfriend “can’t touch you, you’re mine.” The girl said Gaustad’s comment made her feel uncomfortable, and she said she had saved the message, according to the complaint.
When asked if Gaustad had ever talked about coming to Columbia, Missouri, where the girl lives, she said yes. The girl said Gaustad is a basketball couch for girls in ninth grade, and on multiple occasions, he had told the girl, “I wish I was there.” When asked what Gaustad would want if he showed up in Columbia, the girl said, “sex,” the complaint states.
The girl told the Boone County detective she did not believe Gaustad’s actions warranted him being arrested. The detective told the girl there were concerns because Gaustad is a girls’ basketball coach. The girl said Gaustad had spoke to her about one of his athletes, saying how “hot and pretty” this girl was on his team. The girl said she was concerned about the statement and did not know why he had said that to her. As the detective spoke to the girl about her concerns, the girl became upset and began to cry. The detective “processed the incident and got her thinking about her welfare and the safety of others.” The girl was “receptive and understood,” according to the complaint.
On March 30, the detective contacted the girl and showed her an image of Peter Gaustad obtained from the Glenwood City school district. The girl said the person in the picture was Peter, and she signed the image and dated it. The image was placed into evidence for safekeeping, according to the complaint.
At around 10 a.m. April 5, a special agent with the Wisconsin Department of Justice was introduced to Glenwood City High School Principal Patrick Gretzlock in a conference room at the high school.
The special agent gave a synopsis of the case, and Gretzlock accompanied Gaustad to the conference room. A detective with the St. Croix County Sheriff’s Department also was present during the meeting. Gaustad agreed to accompany the special agent and the detective in the special agent’s unmarked department-issued vehicle to the Glenwood City fire department across the street, according to the complaint.
The special agent activated a device to record audio and video, the complaint notes.
During the conversation, Gaustad said he was engaged in an online sexual relationship with a girl from Columbia, Missouri, who he described as under the age of 18. Gaustad said he used Snapchat and Whisper to send sexually explicit material that include photographs and video of his own genitalia and to receive sexually explicit pictures from the girl and indicated he was in his bedroom at his residence on Elm Street in Glenwood City while engaging in the online activity, according to the complaint.
The special agent read through portions of the sexually explicit Whisper chats provided by the Boone County Missouri detective, and Gaustad agreed the conversations sounded consistent with his recollections of the chats with the girl in Missouri, the complaint states.
Gaustad told the investigators he had only used his cellular telephone to view pornographic images on the Internet. Gaustad said he has searched for web cam sites and recalls one encounter with the term “pre teen,” had looked at it briefly and then had closed the “pre teen” window. Gaustad admitted to having sexually explicit conversations with other people on the Internet but was not sure if they were underage, according to the complaint.
In addition to teaching social studies at Glenwood City High School, Gaustad has served as the girls’ head softball coach and the junior varsity girls’ basketball coach.
Gaustad was first elected to the Glenwood City Common Council in April of 2016 and was re-elected to a second term in the April 3 election with 81 votes for alderperson.
Gaustad is scheduled to appear again in St. Croix County Circuit Court before Judge Vlack at 10:15 a.m. April 10.
Judge Vlack set a cash bail of $100,000 during the April 6 court hearing.
As a condition of bail, the judge ordered Gaustad not to use any electronic devices to connect with the Internet or social media and to surrender his passport to the clerk of court if he has a valid passport. Gaustad also must be fitted with a GPS device and is not to leave his address.
In addition, the conditions set by Judge Vlack require Gaustad to call the St. Croix County Day Report Center every day but Sunday with an address verification.
Judge Vlack ordered Gaustad to have no contact with the complaining witness, no contact with two other individuals, and no contact with any minor children under the age of 18. The term “no contact” is defined as no contact in person, by telephone, by way of an electronic device, e-mail, facsimile, social media, including but not limited to texting, Facebook, Twitter, and no contact through the mail and/or through a third person.
If convicted on all felony counts, Gaustad could face a maximum penalty of a little over 140 years in prison and a maximum of $320,000 in fines.
In addition, if convicted, Gaustad could be fined $500 for each image or for each copy of an image associated with the crime.