Teacher’s sex battery hearing is postponed

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SANDPOINT — A preliminary hearing was postponed Wednesday in the case of a former Lake Pend Oreille School District teacher accused of sexual misconduct with a student.

Defense counsel for Nichole Noel Thiel moved for a postponement in the case because discovery — the pretrial exchange of evidence in the case — is voluminous. As a result, more time was needed to prepare for the hearing, Coeur d’Alene attorney Michael G. Palmer said in court documents.

Judge Justin Julian granted the continuance on Wednesday, court records show.

Thiel is free on her own recognizance. She is charged with sexual battery of a minor between the ages of 16-17.

Thiel, a 48-year-old Coeur d’Alene resident, is accused of having a sexual rendezvous with a 16-year-old boy at a Sandpoint condominium in December 2015. At the time of the alleged sexual contact, Thiel was a teacher at Lake Pend Oreille High School.

Thiel is no longer employed by the Lake Pend Oreille School District. Thiel was vice principal and athletic director of the Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy, but was placed on leave after Sandpoint Police confirmed to charter school officials that she was the subject of a criminal investigation in Bonner County.

The student, now 17, disclosed to a LPOHS counselor last December that he had sex with Thiel, according to court documents. Thiel declined to be interviewed by a Sandpoint Police detective and her attorney has declined to comment.

The teen told investigators that he was aware Thiel had come under scrutiny after kissing him on the cheek on an earlier occasion. The alleged kiss was in response to a hug the teen gave a visibly distraught Thiel, according to a police report. Bantering through social media gave way to the alleged sexual contact and the teen remarked to investigators that there rumors Thiel had not been sexually active for an extended period of time, the report said.

A preliminary hearing date is pending. A judge determines at preliminary hearings if there is sufficient evidence to justify trying Thiel in 1st District Court. Thiel could also waive the hearing and proceed directly to district court for arraignment.

If convicted, Thiel could be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and followed on Twitter @ KeithDailyBee.

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