The indictment accusing former Walton High School teacher Stephanie Fletcher of raping two male students has been dismissed by Delaware County Court Judge Carl F. Becker.
In a three-page decision obtained Tuesday by The Daily Star, Becker found that the grand jury that indicted Fletcher one year ago this week was “impaired” because it was not furnished with inconsistent statements made by one of the alleged victims.
Whether the special prosecutor handling the case will seek another indictment is not immediately clear. If he doesn’t, Fletcher is expected to end up with a clean slate, though without the job that had been her career.
In a case that rocked the Walton School District, Fletcher, then a 28-year-old married biology teacher, was arrested by state police investigators in November 2012 on charges she had sex with two 16-year-old boys enrolled at the school. The encounters allegedly took place near or inside the boys’ homes.
In one case, she allegedly had sex with a boy on a couch in his home, after she had gone there under the guise of tutoring him, according to a police complaint. She was also accused of texting photographs showing herself partially clothed.
The legal age of consent in New York is 17.
Fletcher retained the services of Binghamton criminal defense lawyer F. Paul Battisti.
In court papers filed in late December, Battisti argued the indictment was invalid because one of the youths had told Walton School District officials in July 2012 that the sexual interludes with Fletcher occurred during the spring break period of that year. At that point, Battisti wrote in court papers, the young man would have been 17 years old.
Although the youth’s written statement had been provided to the New York State Police and the Walton Police Department during the investigation, it was not given to the grand jury, “nor was the discrepancy of the alleged dates of the sexual intercourse disclosed to the grand jury,” Battisti said in the motion papers.
It was on that argument that Becker focused his decision.
Fletcher’s trial was scheduled to commence two months ago. Becker pointed out that at a pre-trial conference, the special prosecutor in the case, Michael Breen of Middleburgh, reported that five days earlier he had been given a written statement by one of the youths indicating he was 17 at the time of the allegedly illicit acts.
Becker noted that, in the grand jury proceeding, Breen had not entered into evidence the alleged victim’s statement as to when the alleged trysts with Fletcher had taken place.
“It appears this was an unintentional error,” Becker wrote in the decision. “However, the result is that the grand jury did not have a material statement which directly impacted an element of the accusations made by one complainant against the defendant.”
The judge added: “With regard to the second complainant, this omission caused prejudice to the defendant because of the cumulative effect that the testimony of two complainants may have had on the deliberations.”
Becker concluded: “Therefore, because of the inadvertent omission of this highly relevant statement, the Court finds that the integrity of the Grand Jury was impaired entitling the defendant to dismissal of the indictment.”
At the same time, Becker granted permission to the special prosecutor to re-present evidence to anther grand jury.
Efforts to contact Breen at his office and home Tuesday were unsuccessful.
Battisti declined to comment, other than to acknowledge there has been no word from Breen as to whether a new indictment will be sought.
Court officials also said there has been no indication that Breen is planning to seek another indictment against Fletcher, a Hartwick College graduate.
Fletcher was charged with two counts of third-degree rape, one count of third degree criminal sexual act and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Authorities said the alleged encounters took place in the town of Tompkins and in the village of Walton in early 2011, while Fletcher was a teacher.
She had been employed at the Walton school district for about five years before resigning in the summer of 2012.