Crime

Alleged victim says ex-Fruitland coach inundated her with unwanted photos, advances

The alleged victim of former Fruitland High School Principal Mike Fitch spent Wednesday in court claiming that he inundated her with pornography, sexually explicit videos and unwanted advances while she worked at the school.

The defense argued that she was a willing participant.

Fitch resigned as principal in April after he was charged earlier this year with two counts of misdemeanor sexual battery and one count of misdemeanor patronizing a prostitute. Patronizing a prostitute, by state statute, is when someone “pays or offers or agrees to pay another person a fee for the purpose of engaging in an act of sexual conduct or sexual contact.”

The woman was an employee of the Fruitland School District, and the alleged crimes occurred on school property, according to the prosecutor. The charge of patronizing a prostitute stems from Fitch’s having offered to pay the woman for sex after she says she declined to have a relationship with him.

Payette County Prosecutor Ross Pittman on Wednesday morning presented lengthy email conversations between Fitch and the alleged victim. Fitch is accused of writing “erotic stories” to the victim and detailing what kind of fantasies he had about her, asking her for feedback. The woman responded to some, but not all, of the emails.

The Idaho Statesman does not name alleged victims of sexual assault.

Pittman outlined in court how on several occasions Fitch emailed the woman links to pornography, photos of his genitalia and explicit videos. The woman said that she did not ask Fitch to send her those images or videos and that one sexually graphic video was recorded on school property.

The woman testified that in some of her responses, she felt as if she had to “play along” with Fitch’s dialogue, and she told the court that sometimes she responded because “I felt like I had to.” Other times the emails were about subjects such as TV shows they both watched, and the woman said she was more inclined to respond to those because they didn’t make her uncomfortable.

The woman testified that she sent Fitch one photo of herself, showing her buttocks and lower back, because she hoped it would put an end to it and satisfy him. The defense implied that by doing that, the woman was voluntarily engaging in a relationship.

Fitch, who is not in custody, was in court with his attorney, Mistie Bauscher. Magistrate Judge Matthew Bever is presiding over the case, which is being held in Canyon County, due to a change of venue request.

Upon cross-examination, Bauscher focused on the woman’s actions rather than Fitch’s. Bauscher asked the victim about what she said, noting that some of the conversations between Fitch and her happened over Google Hangouts and SnapChat. Both of those digital messaging systems do not save conversations between the two parties, so they could not be presented as evidence in court.

Bauscher argued that the woman didn’t ever say she was afraid of Fitch, who was one of the three people on the hiring committee when she was hired at Fruitland.

“I was afraid I was going to lose my job,” the woman responded.

Bauscher said Fitch never threatened her job in any of their correspondence.

The woman said she acknowledged “flirting and playful banter” at first, but said she didn’t know how to get out of the situation and said Fitch was flooding her with pornographic and other unwanted material.

The trial will continue Thursday morning at the Canyon County Courthouse in Caldwell.

If convicted, Fitch could face up to a year in jail on each charge.

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Reporter Ruth Brown covers the criminal justice and correctional systems in Idaho. She focuses on breaking news, public safety and social justice. Prior to coming to the Idaho Statesman, she was a reporter at the Idaho Press-Tribune, the Bakersfield Californian and the Idaho Falls Post Register.
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