Fruitland High principal charged with 3 sex-related misdemeanors resigns

Fruitland head coach Mike Fitch watches the clock run down during their loss to Shelley Saturday.
Fruitland head coach Mike Fitch watches the clock run down during their loss to Shelley Saturday. Idaho Statesman

Fruitland High School principal and boys basketball coach Mike Fitch has resigned, superintendent Teresa Fabricius said in a statement Thursday evening.

The district is “moving forward to find a replacement” and will soon post a job listing, according to the statement.

Fitch had been on paid leave from the high school since November because of a criminal investigation, with details at that time being scarce. Fitch was charged on Feb. 22 with three sex-related misdemeanors by the Payette County prosecutor: two counts of sexual battery and one charge of patronizing a prostitute, court records indicate.

According to a probable cause affidavit written by Idaho State Police detectives, Fitch was accused of the crimes by a female Fruitland High employee.

Fitch has pleaded not guilty. His next court appearance is set for May 3.

Thursday’s statement from Fabricius included a statement from Fitch’s attorneys, Alex Briggs and Mistie Bauscher:

”Mr. Fitch’s resignation does not admit any liability or wrongdoing and he makes this decision based on what’s best for his family. Due to the intense and biased media coverage in this matter, we look forward to presenting the facts in the future.’’

The Payette County prosecutor charged Fitch with sexual battery due to an incident in which he allegedly took the woman’s hand and placed it on his groin, and another incident in which he allegedly touched the woman in a sexual way without her consent while at school, according to the affidavit.

The charge of patronizing a prostitute stems from Fitch allegedly offering to pay the same woman for sex after she declined to have a relationship with him, according to court records.

The affidavit also claimed that Fitch made sexual advances toward the employee and sent a video of himself masturbating, as well as making a variety of other inappropriate advances toward the employee.

Fitch’s contract was valid through June 30, with a salary of about $77,600.

Fabricius has served as Fruitland High’s acting administrator since Fitch has been on leave. The school board rehired Fabricius as superintendent in January for the 2019-20 school year.

The charges

By definition, Idaho law states that sexual battery “is any willful physical contact, over or under the clothing, with the intimate parts of any person, when the physical contact is done without consent and with the intent to degrade, humiliate or demean the person touched or with the intent of arousing, appealing to or gratifying the lust, passion or sexual desires of the actor or any other person. For purposes of this section, ‘intimate parts’ means the genital area, groin, inner thighs, buttocks or breasts.” Misdemeanor sexual battery is punishable by up to a year in county jail.

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.” It is punishable by up to a year in county jail.

Ruth Brown contributed to this report.