Editor’s note: This story was updated on Tuesday to include additional statements from those who attended the sentencing, as well as a comment from the school district.
Craig Lee Hollenbeck, a former social studies teacher at Eden Prairie High School (EPHS), was sentenced Monday after pleading guilty on Dec. 16, 2022, to a gross misdemeanor charge of endangerment of a child, also known as child grooming.
Hollenbeck was sentenced to 30 days of Sentencing to Service (STS) and two years of probation, along with additional conditions.
The charge stemmed from an inappropriate relationship with a 17-year-old EPHS student between Feb. 1 and June 1, 2021.
Minnesota statute 609.3781(b)(1) was cited in the charge, which states, “A parent, legal guardian, or caretaker who endangers the child’s person or health by intentionally or recklessly causing or permitting a child to be placed in a situation likely to substantially harm the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health or cause the child’s death.”
The sentencing was held in person, with audio streamed online.
Sentencing was at Hennepin County District Court
Dressed in a gray suit, white shirt, and burgundy tie and flanked by his two lawyers, Hollenbeck quietly entered the Hennepin County District Court chambers of Judge Hilary L. Caligiuri shortly before 1:30 p.m.
Hollenbeck and his legal counsel, John L. Leunig and Justin Duffy, sat at a table in the center of the chamber. Aside from an occasional sip of water, Hollenbeck remained almost motionless in his seat until the hearing began.
Caligiuri came to the chamber around 1:50 p.m. to begin the sentencing process.
Daniel B. Allard of the Hennepin County Attorney’s office, who was the prosecuting attorney, said, “We would ask to adopt the negotiation between the two parties, which was for two years of probation. The defendant had the option of a 30-day workhouse cap or 30 days of STS. It’s my understanding he wishes to do the STS. State is fine with that. We feel that’s an appropriate consequence.”
Allard also asked the judge to adopt the conditions laid out in the presentence investigation.
Leunig agreed to the plea agreement on behalf of his client, then the judge asked Hollenbeck if there was anything he would like her to hear before she imposed the sentence in his case.
Hollenbeck pulled the microphone closer and began speaking.
“I want to apologize to the victim,” he said. “I am eternally sorry for making your life worse in so many ways. I will never forgive myself for causing you and your family distress in the ways that I did. And my only wish and my hope is that you’re able to live the beautiful life that you so richly deserve despite me and my actions.
“To her family who trusted me, I betrayed that trust in the most egregious of ways. I am consumed with shame about that every day, and I’m forever sorry to them, although sorry doesn’t begin to express my remorse.
“To every one of my former students — for over 20 years, I preached ethics and morals and doing the right thing. I have violated all of that. I’m so sorry. So, so sorry for letting you all down.
“To the families and community of Eden Prairie who were always so supportive of me, I apologize. And to my former friends and former colleagues, I’m so sorry for betraying your trust and the sacred tenets of the profession that I loved so much. I’m so sorry, your honor.”
After Hollenbeck’s statement, Caligiuri said, “Mr. Hollenbeck, I am going to follow your plea agreement.”
Caligiuri said she was going to stay a gross misdemeanor sentence of 365 days in the workhouse for two years, during which Hollenbeck would be on probation. The stay means that Hollenbeck will not have to serve those 365 days in the workhouse, as long as he complies with the conditions of probation.
Caligiuri said she would order him to serve 30 days of STS rather than 30 days in custody. This means that for 30 days, Hollenbeck will work for approximately eight hours a day doing community service projects. He must complete that within 180 days.
The judge also imposed a $900 fine but stayed $500 of it. This means that Hollenbeck will need to pay a $400 fine plus a $75 surcharge and $3 law library fee, for a total of $478. This needs to be paid in the next 180 days.
Hollenbeck’s two years of probation require him to follow all probation rules in the sentencing order, including that he:
- Must not commit any new crimes.
- Must contact probation within 48 hours of sentencing.
- Must not have contact with the victim, including by phone, email, text, social media post, or passing a message through a third person. Any direct or indirect contact would violate the judge’s order.
- Must stay away from a three-block radius of where the victim lives, works or goes to school.
- Must not use alcohol or non-prescription drugs.
- Must complete psychosexual education as directed by probation, and provide verification he has done so to the probation officer.
- Must comply with polygraphs and other recommended testing, if required, for treatment and case management.
- Must allow probation to provide results of a psychosexual evaluation to treatment providers as needed.
- Must not have any unsupervised contact with minor females unless approved by probation and a therapist. This would include in employment, educational, or volunteer settings.
- Must submit to unknown searches of his person, vehicle, electronic devices, or any other property owned, leased, or under his control by probation officers, based on reasonable suspicion.
- Must sign and comply with an electronic service agreement, which allows probation officers to search his devices with or without reasonable suspicion, and includes needing approval from the probation officer to access the internet.
- Must participate in individual counseling and verify compliance as directed.
- Must make good faith efforts to find and keep full-time work or study.
- Must not use or possess any firearms, ammunition, or explosives.
After conveying the sentencing terms, Caligiuri told Hollenbeck, “I wish you good luck on probation.”
She added, “And if there’s anyone who can convey to the victim in the case, I wish the best for her and peace for her as well.”
Eden Prairie community members attended
After the sentencing, Hollenbeck and his counsel proceeded into the hallway outside the courtroom.
Several members of the Eden Prairie community, who had been present in the viewing area during sentencing, followed soon after.
These included Elaine Larabee, former chair of the Eden Prairie School Board and Debjyoti “DD” Dwivedy, a current school board member.
Six current EPHS juniors and seniors also attended, explaining that Hollenbeck was their former teacher and they wanted to be there to witness the outcome of the case. Hollenbeck did not interact with or acknowledge the students, Larabee, or Dwivedy before, during, or after the sentencing.
Hollenbeck deferred comment when EPLN asked if he would like to say anything about the outcome of the sentencing.
After finishing the necessary paperwork, Hollenbeck and his counsel exited quietly down a back staircase.
‘Our obligation to stand in solidarity with our fellow students’
The day after sentencing, Larabee said, “Mr. Hollenbeck clearly stated during his sentencing that he acknowledged betraying the trust of students, colleagues, and parents with his actions.
“As a parent of two of those former students and a former elected representative of the community, it was important to me to attend the proceedings to witness this man face the consequences of his actions. I also submitted a Community Impact Statement for Judge Caligiuri to consider prior to the sentencing date.
“His behavior was a tremendous betrayal of the public trust, and I wanted him to face at least one member of that public in person on the day he was sentenced.”
One of the EPHS students present at sentencing said, “We attended to remind Craig Hollenbeck that his heinous, destructive actions had not been forgotten. We felt that it was our obligation to stand in solidarity with our fellow students and the community leaders who fought so hard for justice.”
Dirk Tedmon, Eden Prairie Schools’ director of communications, said the district did not have any comments to share about the sentencing.
More to read: Last year, EPLN interviewed EPHS alumni about the allegations made against Hollenbeck.
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