Lee Gordon Nelson
Lee Gordon Nelson
July 24, 2013

A distinguished, retired Harlan Community High School band director - whose name adorns an annual award for young Iowa band directors - was arrested Tuesday for allegedly telling a student he was sexually attracted to her and groping her over the course of six months, the state's Division of Criminal Investigation alleges.

Lee Gordon Nelson, 72, of Harlan, is charged with felony sexual exploitation by a school employee and assault with intent to commit sexual abuse, which are punishable by up to a total of seven years in prison if he is convicted.

The alleged victim, a 17-year-old girl, told investigators that Nelson touched her thigh near her groin and made "rude and inappropriate" comments to her at school, on band trips and at Nelson's house from October to April, court records show.

Nelson retired from the Harlan school district in 2002 after 35 years of employment. His most recent job with the district was not immediately available, but Nelson served as a band teacher and mentor to the alleged victim, according to court records.

Nelson resigned his teaching license after a school employee confronted him about the accusations, to which he allegedly admitted, court records show.

Nelson has a decorated career. He was president of the Iowa Bandmasters Association and Iowa High School Music Association and has received several awards for his work.

The Southwest Iowa Bandmasters Association established the Lee Nelson Young Band Director award in 2009, according to an application for the award.