Former professor sentenced to 30 years for sexual assault

Jefferson+Fieteks+Anoka+County+MN+mugshot

Photo: Courtesy: Zander Danielson-Sellie

Jefferson Fietek’s Anoka County MN mugshot

By Frankie Rowley and Charlie McKenna

Jefferson Fietek, a convicted sex offender who briefly served as a professor in Emerson’s Performing Arts Department, was sentenced to 30 years in prison Wednesday for assaulting a number of underage students during his tenure as a middle school theater teacher in Minnesota. 

Fietek departed Emerson in July 2020 after a former student came forward with allegations of assault from his time at the Anoka Middle School for the Arts. He was subsequently arrested in his Malden home, before being extradited to Minnesota. On Aug. 19, Fietek pleaded guilty to three felony counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

No Emerson students accused Fietek of assault, though he did continue a relationship with an underage student from Minnesota during his time at the college, according to the warrant issued for Fietek’s arrest. 

On Wednesday, victims and their supporters flooded the courtroom for the 48-year-old’s sentencing. Among them was Zander Danielson Sellie, who first came forward with allegations against Fietek in 2009.

Sellie, who met Fietek when they were 11, said being able to share their story at the sentencing hearing was a moving experience. 

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“It was really powerful for me, because I came forward 4,372 days ago,” they said in a phone interview with The Beacon. “I rewrote my statement three times because I’m a big proponent of not making history all unicorns and rainbows.”

“People forget that we were children,” they added.

Fietek’s sentence represents the maximum penalty for the charges he pled guilty to in the state of Minnesota. He is also required to register as a predatory offender.

Sellie said they were relieved that Fietek would be unable to harm any more children. 

“It’s really, really good to know that justice was served here,” they said. 

Fietek’s arrest came in the wake of a Facebook post from Jacob Tighe, now 25, who detailed the abuse he suffered at Fietek’s hands while he was one of the former professor’s students. 

After Fietek’s sentencing, Tighe took to Facebook to share his reactions to the sentencing of the man he once considered an idol. 

“Jefferson raped me,” he said. “He groomed me with anecdotes of straight boys experimenting with their friends. He planted ideas in my head of how he could help me achieve new levels of sexual gratification, and he wanted to show me what it meant to do that as a child.” 

He noted that the trial was a way of learning more about Fietek, especially in regards to his treatment of him and other victims. 

“I know I’m not the only one he did this to, and that there are other men and boys out there who have been through this same sort of torture,” he continued. “I know now that we were bragging rights, or notches in his bedpost, and not the people he claimed to love so much.”

Sellie said they believe Fietek likely abused more victims than have come forward to this point.

“I think there will be some more coming up from other people who are still wrestling with what happened to them,” they said. “But for me, he can’t harm any more people and that’s what’s important. The world knows what he did.”

Tighe said that the experience, while traumatic, ultimately pushed him to speak up against the injustices committed against him and others. 

“Jefferson gave me a voice that I didn’t know I had before,” he wrote. “If it weren’t for that man sitting in this courtroom right now, there would still be a pedophile living in Malden, Massachusetts… Jefferson himself gave me the strength to bring him down all these years later.”

Sellie said there were a lot of emotions involved in sharing their experiences in the courthouse Wednesday, with Fietek looking on.

“It was a lot of us going ‘this is what happened to us, you spent a lot of time using us all as puppets, you’re not going to do that anymore,’” they said. “That was really, really great.”

They said Fietek’s conviction didn’t feel real until they saw him being taken away in handcuffs. 

“That was the moment where I was like, ‘okay, this is actually happening,’” they said. “That was pretty shocking to see and also very satisfying, knowing that it was several decades in the making.”

Fietek’s nephew, Josh Masterton, expressed relief that his uncle’s victims got the justice they deserved. 

The people who came forward are some of the bravest people I’ve ever met and I’m so happy to finally see justice done,” Masterton wrote in a tweet. “I love all of you so much.”