Nisswa man disputes sex charges
Thomas Erickson, accused of sexually abusing young boys over the past several decades at his Nisswa home, is preparing for his initial court appearance Friday on criminal charges of criminal sexual conduct.
Erickson, in a phone interview Wednesday, said some of the charges against him may be true but are not as bad as court records state in the case.
He also said the crimes took place a long time ago and there have been no recent incidents.
“On the charges, one (alleged incident) is 50 years old. I was a juvenile at the time, during the Kennedy Administration. I’ve had some bad judgment in the past and that one may be true,” Erickson said.
“Another was 34 years ago. Again, it was consensual on both sides and not anything near what they’re putting in (court) documents. Like I said, there’s been big mistakes made, there is stuff in there I’m not proud of, I will say that, but it wasn’t anywhere what was in the charges.”
Erickson said he has rehabilitated himself from inappropriate conduct with young boys. Boys were attracted to him and wanted to visit his home because he was someone they could look up to and they enjoyed the companionship, Erickson said.
“All I can do is look back and be sorry. Whatever happened, happened,” Erickson said. “(The victims) are all adults now. It was really bad judgment on my part but it wasn’t like I was kidnapping people off the street. There were very few and it was all from a long time ago.”
He also said the inappropriate contact with boys lasted just minutes and wasn’t on going.
Erickson has been charged with one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and three counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct.
The charges were filed based on interviews conducted with victims by investigators from the Brainerd Police and Crow Wing County Sheriff departments.
In the criminal complaint filed against Erickson, four victims stated Erickson had inappropriate and sexual contact on numerous occasions with them over the course of several years at his Nisswa home. The ages of the victims at the time of the assaults ranged from 6-14 years old. Victims said Erickson often had boys staying at his house because he had fun things for the boys to do — drive cars, shoot BB guns and play in tree forts.
The first victim went to police in August after seeing Erickson walking with three young boys near Erickson’s home in August and he felt Erickson was still sexually assaulting young boys. A second victim also said he saw Erickson with young boys in the area a few days later in Augsut and believed Erickson was still sexually assaulting young boys today.
Brainerd Police Investigator Chad Kleffman interviewed Erickson, who admitted sexually abusing the victims, estimated he had sexual contact with about 10 boys altogether and that he was sexually attracted to children.
During Wednesday’s phone interview, Erickson said he’s hard of hearing and may have inadvertently admitted to some instances of sexual contact with the boys. He said he can’t admit to anything, but is looking forward to stating his case during a jury trial.
Kleffman arrested Erickson after their interview. Erickson posted $150,000 bail to be released from jail. He said he maxed out his credit cards to do so. His conditions of release include no contact with anyone under 18 and no contact with the now-adult victims whose statements formed the basis for the criminal complaint charging Erickson.
The investigation into Erickson is ongoing, Kleffman said on Wednesday. He said he’s talked with several other possible victims, and the reports have been sent to the Crow Wing County Attorney’s office for review for additional criminal charges. County Attorney Don Ryan said his office had received the reports but could comment no further on the case.
Investigators also executed two search warrants at Erickson’s residence after victims spoke of nude photos Erickson had taken of young boys.
Erickson said none of the photographs he took were pornographic and that he had destroyed them after Sept. 11, 2001, because he feared what people might think if they were found.
“It was bad judgment, I’ll admit that, but they were never pornographic.”
In the search warrant obtained by Kleffman, hundreds of photos were found in Erickson’s bedroom of children without clothing on their upper body and sleeping in bed but no naked photos of children were located. Investigators believed pornographic photos may be hidden elsewhere in Erickson’s residence or on his property.
It also was noted in the search warrant that Erickson was a Boy Scout and church youth group leader in Nisswa, though none of those children had yet been interviewed. Erickson said his work with the Boys Scouts and his church ended in 1994.
Erickson said he will be acting as his own attorney Friday because he has no money to pay for legal help and was denied a public defender. In a second interview, he said he will be announcing who his attorney will be on Friday.
He believes two of the victims have been coached on what to tell investigators by therapists. He also said he’s had people tell him they will testify on his behalf at trial.
“Not everybody is anxious to participate in this stuff from years and years ago,” Erickson said. “A lot of people didn’t know there was anything evil going on at the time. They had no idea what was going on.”
Erickson said he has not received any crank calls or hate mail because of the criminal charges filed against him.
“It restores your faith in human nature,” he said.
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.