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Friday, April 11, 2014

Garden Plain coach charged in sex case

By TIM POTTER
The Wichita Eagle

A Garden Plain teacher and football coach appeared in court Monday to face three sex-related charges following what police described as a sting operation.

According to court documents filed last week, Todd Puetz, 39, is charged with electronic solicitation, attempted aggravated indecent liberties with a child and attempted criminal sodomy. All three of the charges are felonies that occurred on or about Oct. 22, court documents say.

Puetz has taught physical education and health and has been a highly successful coach of the Garden Plain High School football team.

The solicitation charge accuses him of using an electronic communication to try to “entice or solicit” someone he thought was 14 or 15 “to commit or submit to an unlawful sex act.”

The second charge accuses him of trying to meet with a “child believed to be 15” to commit aggravated indecent liberties. The third charge accuses him of trying meet with a “child believed to 15” to commit criminal sodomy.

Puetz made his first appearance in Sedgwick County District Court on Monday morning with his attorney Dan Monnat.

Puetz was one of seven men arrested in late October after being suspected of communicating electronically with someone they thought was an underage girl, according to police and records. The communication was of a sexual nature, police said.

Police said that six of the seven men tried to meet with someone they thought was an underage girl for sex, but have not said which men. The special operation came in response to a surge in human trafficking cases in Wichita over the past couple of years, police said. The two-day sting operation involved the FBI, the Internet Crimes Against Children task force, the Wichita-Sedgwick County Exploited and Missing Child Unit, Wichita police and Sedgwick County sheriff’s officers.

After Monday’s court appearance, Monnat, Puetz’s defense attorney, gave this statement: “The charges today show why it is critical for the public to continue to honor the presumption of innocence that Todd Puetz is entitled to. Two weeks ago, according to publicity generated by law enforcement, Coach Puetz was accused of some kind of human trafficking or human slavery said to maybe even merit federal prosecution. That accusation has now disappeared altogether.

“Today, the coach is accused of something completely different. We intend to fully investigate these new charges as well, and if necessary, take them to a jury trial until Coach Puetz is found not guilty.”

Puetz remains on administrative leave with pay and is suspended from activities, school district superintendent Tracy Bourne said Monday. The district will gather information about the charges before deciding whether Puetz’s status should change, Bourne said.

Puetz has been released on a $50,000 bond. He faces a hearing Nov. 21.

Reach Tim Potter at 316-268-6684 or tpotter@wichitaeagle.com

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