STURGEON BAY, Wis.—Almost three years after his arrest for sex crimes, former Franklin College president Thomas Minar received a sentence of six years in prison and six years of extended supervision late Monday afternoon.
News of his arrest in January 2020 rocked the Franklin College community, which prides itself on being a close-knit place where people can develop into their best selves. It launched soul-searching on the small Indiana campus, suddenly thrust into the national news, as well as the three-year legal inquiry in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, where Minar had been visiting his elderly mother.
“These are extremely serious offenses,” said Door County Circuit Court Judge David Weber when handing down a sentence that was longer than the mandatory minimum. “For that reason, I turn to protection of the public. That is my highest duty.”
Minar and his legal counsel referred to difficulty in his job at Franklin College as one of many factors leading to his downward spiral and attempt to meet with a teen who was really an undercover police officer.
Minar originally received 15 charges, including 12 counts for possession of child pornography, using a computer to facilitate a sex crime, child enticement, and exposing a child to harmful narrations. In March 2022, he pleaded no contest to four of the charges.
Minar will be sent to Dodge Correctional Facility, where staff will decide where he will serve the rest of his sentence. The terms prohibit contact with minors and social media and internet use without prior approval from his probation agent. Minar will be listed in the Wisconsin State Sex Offender Registry.
“As said previously, since Thomas Minar’s termination more than two years ago, Franklin College has maintained its focus on delivering the quality education that leads to the personal and academic success of our students,” a statement from the college said. “Franklin is thriving from every perspective as we continue to prepare our students for productive careers and fulfilling lives.”
In court on Monday, the opposing sides seemed to agree on the severity of the offenses Minar will be held accountable for. They disagreed on whether Minar had taken personal responsibility for his actions.
Door County District Attorney Colleen Nordin said that in some of the pre-sentencing documents filed by the defendant’s attorneys, Minar claims not to know how he received the child pornography, if he had viewed the images or if he intended to meet a minor on the day of his arrest.
“It’s clear he knew and intentionally possessed that child pornography. It wasn’t sent to him by chance,” Nordin said. “The truth is the defendant’s narrative is not consistent with his own words and actions.”
Nordin said she has doubts that Minar has truly accepted responsibility for his actions and asked the court to take that into account when determining the length of his sentence.
“To me, that’s not someone who’s taking responsibility,” she said, “and that worries me because failure to assume that responsibility tells me that upon his release, he could easily reoffend because he isn’t accepting the gravity of what he’s done.”
Minar’s local Sturgeon Bay attorney, Brett Reetz, rebutted, saying, “Nobody, especially not Thomas Minar, is defending his actions.
“He is here today having admitted guilt, having been found guilty, having done the work, and having been honest. He’s here today.”
Almost three years after his arrest for sex crimes, former Franklin College president Thomas Minar received a sentence of six years in prison and six years of extended supervision late Monday afternoon.
Mark Maciolek, Minar’s other attorney, argued that anyone using online chatrooms could receive unsolicited child pornography. He made statements that seemed to be understanding of someonee interacting with teens below the age of consent, which the judge criticized in his final remarks.
“[Minar’s actions are] best explained as reflecting a man who sought affirmation online when he was lonely, intertwined with a sexual component,” Maciolek wrote in a document addressed to the judge. “Part of the affirmation Tom experienced was others trusting him with their fantasies, even taboo fantasies,”
Maciolek also wrote that he sees Minar and his post-arrest efforts as redeemable. The document was one of several, including multiple character letters, filed on behalf of the defense. Among the letter writers was Keri Alioto, a former Franklin College staff member. Previously, Tim Garner filed a letter on behalf of the Minar he knew in his time with the college.
Dr. Frank Becker, Minar’s husband, also spoke in court describing Minar’s personal struggles prior to his arrest and the repercussions on their life as a married couple.
Becker said his husband was “in the center of an hourglass” during his time as president of Franklin College from 2015 until he was removed in 2020.
“The faculty felt that they ran the institution and they would take all their frustrations out on the president and not in a particularly polite or reasonable way,” he said. “And also a board, that they run the institution and took out their frustrations on him. It was a no-win situation and one I think he was not at the position to be in.”
Despite Minar’s legal troubles, Becker said he will continue to support his husband and that he is “in this with Tom for the long haul.”
“His recovery demonstrates that he is sincere and accepting the responsibility. And he has,” Becker said. “He is at heart a decent, kind and concerned individual. He had a huge fall and a very low bottom. He has reformed himself and continues to reform himself.”
The sentencing hearing marked the first time Minar spoke in depth about what he did and the months leading up to his arrest.
Minar said that while he could attempt to excuse his actions by talking about his substance abuse issues and sex addiction, he was choosing not to do that.
“My addictions were symptoms of deeper flaws in my psyche and character—not an excuse but an explanation,” he said.
Minar also said he feels ashamed and remorseful for the way his crimes have affected Franklin College. During the hearing, Minar shifted in his seat and craned his neck to see who was in attendance.
“I very much want to apologize to all the people I have hurt,” he said. “My husband, who is still with me, here today, suffered greatly and suffers greatly … I have shamed Franklin College by my actions. I have let coworkers and students down … I am sorry. My actions hurt so many people it’s a heavy load to carry.”
After Minar concluded, Judge Weber took a moment to think about the afternoon’s events before handing down a sentence.
Weber said he was both horrified and nauseated by some of the things Minar had said in chat rooms and interactions with the police following his arrest.
“The defendant said he often spoke to young people about ‘public education.’ This is the kind of thing that turns my stomach,” he said. “It is sophistry. It is completely disingenuous.”
Weber also said he had a problem with the argument that Minar used his online activities as a coping mechanism for other stressors in his life.
“There are a lot of people that have stresses at work and don’t interact this way with minors on the internet. There’s a lot of people who have their mothers die that don’t act this way with children,” Weber said. “There’s a lot of people with substance abuse problems, and they do a lot of crazy things, but they don’t essentially commit crimes.”
Weber said he was confused that someone he described as accomplished and intelligent could end up committing this type of crime.
“You can talk about pressures all you want, and coping mechanisms all you want, and maybe they are—trust me, this is above my pay grade to actually understand why an immensely talented person like yourself … can crossover into this type of behavior. It’s a mystery,” he said.
“I believe there has to be a serious consequence to all of these offenses.”
Minar received credit for 84 days of jail time served between when his bond was revoked in March to Monday’s appearance in court. When Minar finishes his initial confinement in 2028, he will be of retirement age and face six years of extended supervision.
Sydney Byerly is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.