BAGLEY, Minn. — Former Bagley High School resource officer and Clearwater County deputy Neil Dolan will serve 14 years after being sentenced on Wednesday, Aug. 4, for sexually abusing students while he was working at the school.
Dolan, 34, pleaded guilty to two felony charges on June 30 during a plea hearing: first-degree criminal sexual conduct, and second-degree criminal sexual conduct. Another second-degree criminal sexual charge and a third-degree criminal sexual charge were dismissed with a plea agreement.
In the first case he was sentenced for assaulting a student on the last day of school in 2017, when the victim was 15 years old and Dolan was 29. He received 168 months, or 14 years, in prison for that case.
Dolan was then sentenced to 119 months, or nearly 10 years, for assaulting another student, who was 14 or 15 at the time, in his office at Bagley High School. He will serve those sentences concurrently, meaning he will be in prison for 14 years.
The sentencing was held via Zoom with Dolan appearing from the Minnesota Correctional Facility in St. Cloud. He’s serving two years for another third-degree charge of attempted criminal sexual conduct, which he was charged with in Becker County. Three felony charges of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct were dropped in that plea agreement.
Assistant U.S. Attorney General Erin Eldridge represented the state of Minnesota in the case against Dolan, who was represented by Rebecca Duren of the law firm Kelly and Lemmons.
Dolan admitted to sexually assaulting two ninth-grade students in his office at Bagley High School. He agreed to the factual basis of the charges during the June 30 hearing when questioned by Duren. Eldridge followed up with more detailed questions, confirming that Dolan wore a duty belt and firearm while working, among other details.
The victim and his mother in the first case, occurring in 2017, had impact statements read to the court by Eldridge during the hearing on Wednesday. The victims in the second case did not give impact statements.
“After this happened, it completely shattered any chance I had at being normal and fitting in. I tried, but after something like that happens it makes you second guess everything you do,” Eldridge said, reading for the victim. “Walking down the hall, wondering if I was sticking out too much, worried that maybe I did something wrong that I needed to fix so I tried to change myself. I started wearing sweatpants and hoodies because I thought maybe wearing jeans and shorts was a reason for this happening to me.
“I went from being a 15-year-old boy to a 20-year-old man. I lost all joy in what I did. I would put on a smile so people would think I was the fun one. When I stayed at a friend's house, I would always be the last one up so I knew nothing was going to happen to me again. I made sure everyone was always safe because I didn’t want someone to feel the pain that I had been holding onto for so long.”
The victim’s statement also said that he developed triggers such as hearing a keychain rattle or someone simply touching him on his back.
Eldridge then read from a statement given by the victim’s mother.
“When the people who took an oath to protect our children are the very ones who break that oath, they tear not only the victims and family apart but the community as a whole,” Eldridge said, reading for the victim’s mother.
The mother’s statement also said that community members who supported Dolan called the children who came forward liars and attention seekers.
“We sent our children to you as another resource and helper. You took that trust and destroyed it,” Eldridge continued, for the mother. “How can we ever tell our children that law enforcement and schools are safe places? You have shown us that they are not. That no one in this world can be trusted with our children. The sheriff’s department, school system and you have failed our children. I pray that this never happens again and actions are placed so that it does not happen again.
“(The victims) have saved other children that could become the next victims. It is a cruel world for children when they have to not only stand up to an adult but also an officer of the law. I can only pray that they find the peace and justice that they are deserved today,” Eldridge read from the mother’s statement.
His mother also said in the statement that she did not forgive Dolan for what he had done and that she unfortunately will probably never be able to.
When asked if Dolan had anything to say regarding either case, he declined.
Clarification Aug. 5, 2021: Neil Dolan will serve 14 years for sexually abusing students. This story has been updated to clarify the concurrent amount of time that will be served.