Sex with student? Pett pleads not guilty

By: 
ASHLEY RONESS
Star Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Dressed in bright yellow, former Custer County District High School science teacher Morgan Pett pled not guilty to all charges during his arraignment hearing this morning in Miles City.

Pett, 38, is accused of having sexual relations with a 15-year-old female CCDHS student in late 2016 and early 2017.

He was formally charged with six counts of sexual intercourse without consent and one count each of sexual abuse of children and solicitation of tampering with physical evidence.

Pett was booked last Tuesday after being extradited to Montana from Alaska, where he was arrested as the fishing boat he was working on came into port.

This morning Pett appeared in Montana 16th Judicial District Court in Miles City before Judge Michael Hayworth for his plea hearing. He was represented by attorney Ashley Harada of Billings.

If Pett can post bond he will be allowed to move to Santa Fe, New Mexico to reside with his parents. He will be required to wear a GPS monitoring device, attend sexual offender counseling and return to Montana when required.

He is being held in the Custer County Detention Center on $500,000 bail. Harada requested that the bail be lowered to $100,000, calling the current amount “oppressive.” Hayworth denied the request.

While Custer County Attorney Wyatt Glade had no problem allowing the defendant to reside with his parents, he objected to reducing the bail.

“I do believe Mr. Pett is a flight risk,” said Glade, who also stated that the crimes Pett allegedly committed are very serious.

Pett is not allowed to have any contact with the alleged victim or anyone under the age of 18 except for his child.

If Pett is convicted he faces up to 100 years in prison on each count of sexual intercourse and sexual abuse charges. He also faces 10 years in prison for the tampering charge.

The investigation began on Jan. 6, 2017 when Pett’s wife reported to a counseling service that her husband possessed nude photographs of the teen.

Charging documents indicate the alleged relationship began in October or November of 2016, and the two engaged in oral sex and sexual intercourse on multiple occasions from Dec. 9, 2016 to Jan. 4, 2017.

According to court documents, on Jan. 4, Pett sent a text to the girl revealing that his wife had gone through his phone and asking her to “delete everything.” On Jan. 7, he sent the girl another message stating: “The cops were at my house today, delete everything, make sure everything is deleted.”

On Feb. 12, 2018 investigators received a forensics report that matched DNA evidence found on a blanket in the girl’s vehicle to Pett.

The defendant was a teacher at CCDHS from 2008 to February 2017, when his resignation was officially accepted by the Miles City Unified Board of Trustees.

In a statement to the Star last week, Keith Campbell, superintendent of the Miles City Unified School District, wrote “the first weekend of January 2017, I was notified that Mr. Pett was alleged to have had inappropriate communication with a student. I immediately placed Mr. Pett on administrative leave, pending investigation into the allegations. Mr. Pett was never again in front of our students.”

Pett’s pretrial hearing is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 13 at 10 a.m. in District Court.

(Contact Ashley Roness at starnews@midrivers.com or 406-234-0450.)

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