Former Albert Lea counselor, coach pleads not guilty to charge

Published 5:08 am Friday, January 28, 2022

The former Albert Lea High School counselor and girls’ basketball coach charged with criminal sexual conduct with a student pleaded not guilty Thursday in Freeborn County District Court to his charge.

Richard John Polley, 34, faces one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, including penetration, of a student from a prohibited occupational relationship.

Court documents allege the student initially went to Polley at school to talk if something was bothering her or to make changes to her schedule. In December they became friends and started talking on Snapchat, and the sexual activity reportedly happened at Polley’s house earlier this month.

The Albert Lea school board voted earlier this week to terminate Polley from his position after an internal investigation. The school investigation found evidence to support the allegations and also found that Polley had falsified parts of his district job application submitted Nov. 11.

The investigation revealed he lied about never being asked to resign to avoid termination with his former employer, the South Washington County Schools district. The board’s investigation found that, while Polley was the subject of allegations there, the district had conducted its own investigation and that on April 23, 2021, Polley signed a resignation agreement and release of all claims.

The investigation did not release the nature of the allegations. 

Polley faces 15 years in prison and a $30,000 fine. He is slated for a pre-trial Sept. 30 and a jury trial Oct. 18.