SANDPOINT — A preliminary hearing is pending for an Athol man accused of lewd and lascivious conduct in Bonner County.
Michael John Kessler is charged with four counts of the felony offense and is being held in lieu of $25,000 bail, according to court documents.
Kessler, 75, is accused of molesting a boy and a girl on various occasions between 2015-2016, a criminal complaint alleges. The children were between the ages of 7-8 at the time of the incidents.
Kessler befriended the victims’ family and helped them with transportation and chores, unsealed probable cause hearing testimony indicates.
The allegations emerged after the female victim was overheard by a bus driver making inappropriate remarks on the bus. One of the children disclosed the alleged abuse to a family friend, court records show. Both children were allegedly told to keep the sexual contact a secret.
Kessler is accused of fondling both children’s genitals and having genital-to-genital contact with the girl, according to the criminal complaint.
A warrant for Kessler’s arrest was issued last July. He was arrested in Kootenai County earlier this month.
Kessler is barred from contacting the alleged victims while the case is pending and a public defender has been appointed to represent him, court records show.
A preliminary hearing is set for Wednesday in Bonner County Magistrate Court.