Crime

At trial, ex-Fruitland principal denies sexual battery claims, calls exchanges mutual

Former Fruitland High School Principal Mike Fitch took the stand at his trial Thursday afternoon and said he believed that his sexual conversations with a female employee were mutual. He denied any sexual abuse.

Fitch, 44, who was also a longtime coach at the school, resigned in April after he was charged 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.”

When asked in court whether he felt like the woman was afraid of him, Fitch said no.

“I never really felt like there was any imbalance,” he said.

Fitch said he never touched the woman sexually, denying both counts of sexual battery. He also denied ever offering to pay the woman for sex or any implication that he would pay her for a sexual favor.

Fitch described his email conversations with the woman, saying that the erotic stories and graphic language were mutual. Most of Wednesday’s testimony from the alleged victim focused on the dialogue in those emails.

On Wednesday, the woman said in court that she felt as if she had to “play along” with Fitch’s dialogue, in part because he was her boss. The woman responded explicitly to some of Fitch’s emails involving erotic conversations, but testified that she was telling him what he wanted to hear. Fitch claims that she willingly participated.

The Idaho Statesman does not identify alleged victims of sexual crimes.

In one email to the woman, Fitch apologized if he was “overzealous.” That was after she didn’t respond to a previous email immediately.

When his defense attorney, Mistie Bauscher, asked why he would have apologized, Fitch said, “I didn’t want to have offended her.”

Fitch claims that the woman never told him to stop sending her messages and described their sexual conversations as “a relationship” but not an affair. They were both in relationships with other people at the time.

Fitch emailed the woman links to pornography, photos of his genitalia and explicit videos. 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.

Fitch testified that he was under the impression the woman wanted to have sex with him.

Payette County Prosecutor Ross Pittman, who filed the charges in the case, cross-examined Fitch. Pittman outlined all of the allegations made against Fitch by the woman, repeatedly asking Fitch whether he thought she was a liar. His responses varied between “correct” and “yes.”

Pittman questioned Fitch about where he was when he sent the woman the erotic stories. Fitch said he usually wrote the stories outside of school, but acknowledged that he sometimes sent them while at school.

The case is being tried in Canyon County rather than Payette County due to a change of venue request. Closing arguments will begin at 9 a.m. Friday, and then jury deliberations will begin.

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