Federal charges over for Melbourne teacher
A federal jury has acquitted Steven D. Mitchell, former Melbourne High School teacher and Pineville resident, of a felony charge of transporting a male student across state lines for the purpose of sexual contact.
U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes also dismissed four other federal charges against Mitchell, including witness tampering and three allegations that Mitchell had exposed himself to several boys during trips out of state for Future Farmers of America meetings.
The judge determined there was insufficient evidence to support the witness tampering charge and that under the laws that were in place at the time, the alleged actions during the out-of-state trips did not constitute a crime.
One charge was considered by the jury dealing with a single boy.
The boy testified that on a trip to Kentucky while he was a high school junior, Mitchell who was the FFA sponsor, made physical sexual contact with him as well as a verbal solicitation. However, the boy said he refused the solicitation.
Defense attorney Tim Dudley of Little Rock said in closing arguments that it was only one boy who had accused Mitchell of going as far as oral sex.
He went on to note, the boy who had made the darker allegations had also admitted he had been angry at Mitchell because he believed Mitchell had proliferated a rumor about the boy in school.
"If he is the monster the government is making him out to be, why didn't he ask somebody else for oral sex?" Dudley said.
Dudley also pointed out the boy had testified that Mitchell had pulled him out of a speech class for the purpose of soliciting indecent acts, but a Melbourne High School class schedule did not show a speech class being conducted at that time.
The defense rested without Mitchell testifying or presenting any witnesses.
In August 2005, Mitchell pleaded guilty in Izard County Circuit Court to two felony counts of second degree assault, in connection with the same group of boys from the school. The judge handed down a sentence of five years probation, $2,500 in fines and Mitchell was ordered to register as a sex offender.