The St. Louis County attorney's office said it will not pursue charges against state Rep. Kerry Gauthier for an alleged sexual encounter with a 17-year-old male at a rest stop.

Authorities found that the Duluth DFLer engaged in oral sex with the 17-year-old in a wooded area behind the rest stop on July 22. County Attorney Mark Rubin determined that no charges were warranted because the legal age of consent is 16.

Gauthier, 56, told police he met the boy after placing an ad on Craiglist in which he claimed to be a 43-year-old male looking for sexual relations with another male, "no strings attached."

The 17-year-old told police he responded to the ad and agreed to meet Gauthier at the rest stop around 11 p.m. He told police they walked to a wooded area behind the rest stop and were back there for "five minutes" having oral sex before being spooked by the chance of being spotted.

Authorities walked around the building and found Gauthier in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt with his zipper down. An officer drew his gun when he saw Gauthier's hand in a pocket. Gauthier eventually retrieved a cellphone from the pocket.

Both parties told police that their relationship was consensual and that no money was exchanged. Each also said the teen had told Gauthier he was 18. Gauthier told police it was the first time he'd ever done anything like that and promised it would never happen again.

Gauthier has refused to talk about the investigation, calling it a private matter, and could not be reached for comment Thursday. The Duluth News Tribune, which first reported the story, said Thursday that Gauthier had checked into an area hospital, citing shortness of breath.

Before Gauthier's hospitalization was known, the Republican Party of Minnesota demanded that he explain the investigation and why he missed a joint House-Senate meeting Thursday to discuss flood relief in northeastern Minnesota, including Duluth.

Republican Party Chairman Pat Shortridge called the situation "deeply disturbing."

"Today, Gauthier's constituents have legitimate reason to believe that what he terms a 'private matter' is preventing him from doing his job representing them," Shortridge said.

Gauthier, a first-term legislator who sits on a House public safety committee, is up for re-election in November.

"Gauthier needs to be honest with the people he represents," Shortridge said. "It has been more than three weeks since this incident and he has said nothing other than that he thinks he doesn't have to say anything. He's wrong."

House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said he was most worried about Gauthier's recovery.

"My immediate concern is for Rep. Gauthier's health and for a full and speedy recovery," said Thissen, who had not spoken with Gauthier. "I expect he will further address the events of last month once he is fully recovered."

Baird Helgeson • 651-925-5044