Over the objection of the prosecution, a Hennepin County judge has spared a longtime Twin Cities special education teacher from prison after he was convicted of sexually assaulting a woman he met on a dating website.

Michael J. Lovestrand, 52, of Bloomington was sentenced to seven years of supervised probation and had a 12-year prison term set aside.

Lovestrand was found guilty in December of first- and third-degree criminal sexual conduct in connection with the assault in his apartment in 2018.

District Judge Jay Quam's sentence was a downward departure from state sentencing guidelines. Quam explained in a report filed with the court that Lovestrand's crime was "less onerous than usual" and that he was "particularly amenable to probation."

The report noted that the prosecution opposed the lesser sentence.

"The prosecutor on this case placed our concerns on the record, including mental injuries suffered by the victim," said Lacey Severins, spokeswoman for the Hennepin County Attorney's Office. " Our office felt that the [12-year] presumptive sentence in prison was appropriate given the nature of the offenses committed by the defendant."

Lovestrand was hired by the Mounds View School District in 2004 and worked with middle school and high school students with emotional and behavioral disorders. He took a series of leaves of absences in June 2012, never returned and resigned in 2016.

Lovestrand then joined the St. Paul Public Schools district in the same capacity at the Barack and Michelle Obama Elementary School but left in June 2017.

In November 2019, a woman told police that Lovestrand had assaulted her in April 2018, a couple of weeks after they had met on a dating website, according to the criminal complaint.

She reportedly went to his apartment for dinner and then to his bedroom, where he forced her into sex.