AUGUSTA — Authorities have issued an arrest warrant for a Gardiner Area High School teacher and coach accused of three misdemeanor counts of unlawful sexual touching involving a high school student younger than 18.

District Attorney Evert Fowle said Tuesday the warrant for Matthew B. Dineen, 41, of Gardiner, was issued April 1.

Dineen is not currently teaching at the school and remains at large.

“Certainly I would urge him to turn himself in,” Fowle said.

Jason Jabar, the attorney representing Dineen, said he would reserve comment on the charges; however, he said he had spoken to Dineen, who knows about the warrant.

“He will be answering the charges,” Jabar said Wednesday.

The charges allege the illegal behavior occurred on three separate occasions between Oct. 1, 2009, and Feb. 28, 2010. The maximum penalty is 364 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Gardiner Police Chief James Toman said his department began an investigation into the conduct March 3 after receiving a complaint from the school.

Toman confirmed Wednesday the victim is a high school student.

“I do not believe that there are any students or any members of the public at risk at this point,” he said.

He said officers did a forensic audit of Dineen’s laptop as part of the investigation. Toman said the warrant for Dineen’s arrest was entered Wednesday into the National Crime Information System.

Toman said authorities believe Dineen is out of state. Fowle said Dineen would not be extradited on the misdemeanor charges.

Paul Knowles, superintendent of Regional School Unit 11, which includes Gardiner Area High School, said Wednesday he had no comment on Dineen’s employment status and referred all questions to police.

More details about the case appear in documents filed in Augusta District Court.

In an affidavit, Dineen’s wife, Shelby Dineen, obtained a protection-from-abuse order against her husband on behalf of herself and their two children. It is in effect until March 21, 2011, and bars him from visiting his children.

In her affidavit, Shelby Dineen says her husband was placed on administrative leave by the school on Feb. 26 after allegations were made of “inappropriate texting and Facebook contact with a student.”

Shelby Dineen’s mother, Deborah P. Thibodeau, also obtained a protection-from-harassment order against Matthew Dineen, which is in effect until March 21, 2011.

School board minutes show Dineen has taught at the school for more than two years. He was boys’ hockey coach at Gardiner for several years and a volunteer coach with the boy’s lacrosse team.

In fall 2008 and 2009, he was girls’ varsity soccer coach. Prior to teaching in Gardiner, he taught at Carrie Ricker School in Litchfield. He was named Kennebec Journal Hockey Coach of the Year in 2009.

Dineen is currently certified as a teacher in Maine, according to David Connerty-Marin, spokesman for the state Department of Education.

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