Former Kingsley Principal Admits to Three Charges Involving Former Students

Former Kingsley teacher and principal Karl Hartman will likely be going to prison, after entering a plea deal in court.

Grand Traverse County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Kyle Attwood says, “It was a bit of a surprise. I kind of thought, and we (the defense attorney) both thought from the outset it was going to be a case that ended in a trial.”

Kingsley Schools Superintendent Dr. Keith Smith was also taken off guard. “I was very surprised to see there was a plea deal in the case. For the community I think it’s probably the best resolution.”

Hartman was set to go to trial later this month. But now a plea deal means that trial is off. Hartman was arrested and charged with sex crimes back in January – for allegations involving former students who are now adults. As part of the plea entered in court on Friday, eight charges against Hartman are dismissed, including the most serious – a first degree criminal sexual conduct.

Smith says, “From a school standpoint it’s good to have this kind of behind us and move on from a dark chapter.”

Hartman is pleading guilty now to three new charges. The Prosecutor’s Office says there are three counts of Assault with Intent to Commit 2nd Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct. Those three counts are specific to two of the victims in the case. Attwood says the plea was drafted in cooperation with the victims. “The victims input is hugely important. That’s really where we start the discussion and clean negotiations is where the victims are, what they want to see happen, what they’re comfortable with and not comfortable with.”

Hartman will have to register as a sex offender. Attwood says avoiding a trial is a relief to some of the victims, and all will still be able to address the court at sentencing. “If they are happy with the resolution then we are happy with the resolution. I feel like it was justice for the victims, who enter into the agreement, they heard the admission. They’ll have a chance to say their peace. It obviously spares them from having to testify.”

The Kingsley Supt. says this case has caused some division among community members, many of whom supported Karl Hartman. “Obviously when this came out it was unfortunate. People had a hard time balancing the Karl that they knew with the Karl that was accused of these actions.” Smith added, “To support that person meant you weren’t supporting and believing the kids that came forward. And that’s what I think caused a lot of the conflict with people. The school obviously will do anything we can to help victims move forward.”

Attwood says part of the plea deal included Hartman’s admission to the three new charges. “Those people (in the community) get to hear it as much as the victims get to hear it. That (he) did do something wrong. He admits to the contact that they were alleging happened.”

Kelly Saxton is a Kingsley parent and school board member. She’s glad the case is coming to an end. “I think it’s good that it’s over. As a community we can move on, hopefully get some closure. We can get our focus back to just educating our students.”

Hartman faces up to five years in prison when he’s sentenced in a few weeks, although the judge will have leeway to hand down a sentence that goes above or below the sentencing guidelines. Attwood says, “The most important thing you can do for victims, child victims, is to believe them, to hear them out, to give them a chance to see what was done to them and I think this is sort of vindication on their part.”