CALDWELL — A jury has found former Fruitland High School principal Mike Fitch not guilty of all three misdemeanor charges against him.
Six jurors — three men and three women — determined Fitch, 44, was not guilty of two counts of misdemeanor sexual battery and one count of misdemeanor patronizing a prostitute.
Fitch was charged after a school staff member said he grabbed her butt in her office, placed her hand on his groin in the teacher lounge, and offered to pay her $300 for sexual favors. Fitch, who worked for the district for over 20 years before resigning in April, denied those allegations during his testimony Thursday.
The case has been "a long, hard fight to the finish line," his attorney, Mistie Bauscher, said.
"It was frustrating to me reading the media coverage throughout this year because I knew all the facts weren’t being reported," she said. "He’s trudged this road with class and never lashed out in anger. It’s been a pleasure representing him."
Payette County Prosecutor Ross Pittman declined to provide a comment following the verdict.
During closing arguments earlier Friday morning, Pittman said the case wasn't one of consent, but rather, the jury was "left with a question of whether you believe her, or you believe him.”
Fitch's conversations with the employee, who started at the school in August 2018, began in September 2018 and quickly escalated from flirtatious to sexual in nature. Only emails were recovered during the investigation, according to Bauscher, though the two also talked over Google Hangouts and Snapchat.
Pittman said the case was about a man, in a position of authority, who used his power to get what he wanted from the victim. He asked the court to consider why the victim would want to lie. The suggestion that she reported it because she had a boyfriend was not true, he said, because she was not even the one to report the incidents to police; a co-worker did.
The woman did not believe the conversations and alleged touching would stop until she went to the police, he said.
"The only way to get it stopped is what we’re doing right now," Pittman said.
To Bauscher, there was never evidence presented that showed the victim asked Fitch to stop sending her emails with sexual content, she said.
She stated there was never any evidence presented, other than the victim’s testimony, that proved the alleged crimes occurred. She added there should be video evidence of surveillance cameras showing the two together in the copy lounge and the victim’s office where the sexual batteries were alleged to have happened, but that was not presented.
During the time the sexual battery was alleged to have happened, the two were also engaged in sexual conversations over several platforms Bauscher said. She dubbed the days they were talking as the “12 days of sex-mas.”
Of the 59 pages of emails recovered, 39 were erotic emails, and 17 of those pages were from erotic stories Fitch wrote, Pittman claimed. The victim would sometimes respond and sometimes wouldn't.
Bauscher claimed that if the sexual contact had happened at school, Fitch would have included them in the stories he wrote to her.
“This is such a bad case,” Bauscher said, before asking the jury to find Fitch not guilty on all counts.
The jury deliberated for about three hours before reaching the verdict.