CALDWELL — After an almost four-hour deliberation Friday afternoon, a Canyon County jury acquitted former Fruitland High School Principal Mike Fitch on three misdemeanor sex crime charges.
Fitch, who resigned as Fruitland High’s principal in April, faced two counts of sexual battery and one count of soliciting a prostitute after another Fruitland employee told police he had touched her buttocks, put her hand on his clothed crotch without consent and had offered to pay her for sex acts.
The jury, three men and three women, determined Fitch was not guilty of any of those crimes.
“Its been a really long year. It’s a relief to have it behind me now,” Fitch said following the verdict.
The trial centered on two central arguments: whether the woman who accused Fitch had consented to his sexual behavior, and whether the alleged incidents actually happened at all.
On Wednesday, the woman testified that Fitch had barraged her with unwanted erotic emails, pictures of his genitals and videos of himself masturbating. Canyon County Prosecutor Ross Pittman cast her as a single mother, who had just started working at the district, afraid of rebuffing her boss for fear of losing her job, and cast Fitch as her superior, as taking advantage of his position of power.
Idaho Education News does not name alleged assault victims without their permission.
The woman said she did sometimes respond to Fitch’s emails, but only to make him go away. She said she never consented to the touching and hoped he would stop contacting her.
“I didn’t know how to get out of it,” the woman said repeatedly in court.
Defense attorney Mistie Bauscher used lewd material in the emails, sent by both Fitch and the woman, to argue that the woman’s responses to Fitch indicated that she wanted a sexual relationship, and if she didn’t, that she hadn’t made that clear.
And on Thursday, Fitch took the stand and told jurors he had never even touched the woman.
Pittman argued during closing arguments Friday that the woman had no reason to lie about the events, especially when coming to court meant exposing her private life. In court, attorneys read pornographic content from the emails between her and Fitch, and Bauscher repeatedly showed a photo of the woman’s backside that she had sent to Fitch.
“She came in here and she told you because what happened to her was wrong. What happened to her was mean. What happened to her hurt her,” Pittman said. “… She told you that because the only way to get Mr. Fitch to stop — to get this person in a position of power over her to stop — was to tell.”
Ultimately, jurors decided they weren’t convinced beyond a reasonable doubt.
Fitch was acquitted on all three counts.