TRAVERSE CITY —The trial of a former Kingsley Area Schools principal and teacher accused of sexual assault against four boys between 1995 and 2014 has been delayed more than two months.
Karl A. Hartman, 54, was set to stand trial Tuesday in the 13th Circuit Court on four felony counts and two misdemeanor counts. Difficulties coordinating the appearance of witnesses now living overseas as well as two evidentiary issues forced the delay, Grand Traverse County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Kyle Attwood said. The trial now is set to take place July 29-Aug. 1 with a final date of Aug. 6 if necessary.
Hartman is charged with one count of first-degree CSC against a boy who was 6 or 7 years old and is said to have occurred more than 30 years ago when he was a first-grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary. He also faces two felony second-degree CSC counts against two boys who were 8 or 9 years old, one felony count of accosting a child for immoral purposes and two misdemeanor counts of furnishing alcohol to minors, which prosecutors said occurred between 2009 and 2018 when Hartman was the principal at Kingsley Middle School.
All of these charges stem from statements of four former students who are now adults.
Hartman rejected a April plea bargain offer to drop all charges except for one second-degree CSC count and the accosting count.
Shawn Worden, Hartman's attorney, was granted two discovery motion requests Friday — one to modify Hartman's bond to allow a site visit on Kingsley Area Schools grounds, and another to release mental health counseling records of one of the accusers to the court for review. Hartman and Worden were given 28 days to coordinate a site visit.
Kingsley Superintendent Keith Smith said the district will cooperate with the judge's order, but he hopes the visit will not take place when students are on campus. Smith said he would prefer Hartman to visit the schools either at night or after the end of the school year, which is scheduled for June 12.
Judge Kevin Elsenheimer will review the accuser's counseling records within the next two weeks and then determine what, if any, information contained in those records may be used by the defense and prosecutors. Worden requested access to the records because the accuser is alleged by the prosecutor to have told his counselor about the incident with Hartman more than a year ago.
Worden argued the counselor did not act as a mandatory reporter and did not make a report to Children's Protective Services or law enforcement and said there is likely evidence in those records. Worden said the counselor is a reputable person and would have reported something had he known to report it.
"That provides me with a good-faith basis for disclosure of the documents," Worden said.
Worden asked for the accuser to sign a release of his own records to speed up the process and avoid a court review, but Attwood said it is important for the judge to act as "a gatekeeper to protect the privacy" of the accuser.
"There's obviously some hesitancy on (the part of the counselor) in releasing records of that nature without a court order," Attwood said. "I think it's everyone's preference that there be a court order to that effect and that the court go through the formal process of conducting a ... review."
Attwood believes the time frame to complete the court review of the records and site visit is long enough to avoid a second trial delay.
"I think that's enough time for us to get everything done that we need to have done," he said. "That being said, if something comes up that necessitates an adjournment, we can deal with it then."