Olmsted jury finds ex-Austin man guilty in another child sexual abuse case

Published 5:03 pm Saturday, March 15, 2014

ROCHESTER — An Austin resident and former Stewartville elementary teacher was found guilty in Olmsted County District Court Thursday of sexually abusing a girl during the 2005-06 school year.

A jury found 68-year-old Francis Skinness guilty of all three felony counts of criminal sexual conduct after a week-long trial. Skinness is scheduled to be sentenced on May 5. Though Olmsted county attorneys argued Skinness should be taken into custody, the court decided to allow Skinness to continue to serve probation for a previous criminal sexual assault conviction.

The victim said the abuse happened when she was about 8 years old in a storage closet near the classroom, according to court records. The victim said Skinness fondled her, forced her to touch him and give him oral sex, among other acts.

Francis Skinness

Francis Skinness

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Skinness was convicted of second-degree criminal sexual conduct in October 2011 and was re-sentenced to 180 days in jail last March for skipping sex offender treatment classes. However, he was released early.

Skinness’ previous conviction stemmed from when he was a teacher at Bonner Elementary in Stewartville in 2009. Skinness inappropriately touched a 9-year-old girl on several occasions, according to a court complaint. The complaint said Skinness put his hand down the girl’s shirt, touched her breasts and put his lips on her ears. According to Olmsted County police reports, several girls in Skinness’ third-grade class complained of feeling uncomfortable around him, particularly when sitting on the “hot seat” with him, on which students would have to sit between his legs.

Skinness said actions were not sexually motivated; however, Skinness admitted to invading the girl’s space.

Skinness previously skipped a sex offender class in 2012, for which a judge found to be “intentional and inexcusable,” and sentenced Skinness to another 30 days in jail.

Skinness is on seven years of probation and was originally ordered to serve 30 days in the Olmsted County jail, pay $1,000 in fines, including restitution, participate in a sex offender program and serve 100 hours of community service.

Skinness previously taught at Banfield Elementary in the 1990s. He was investigated for sexually abusing a third-grader in 1992 but no charges were ever filed.