Monday, July 10, 2006

Judge dismisses all Parish charges - WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES

JEFFERSON - With a jury trial scheduled to begin Tuesday, a Jefferson County judge this morning dismissed all charges against former Cambridge High School teacher and coach Joseph Parish, who was accused of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old female student in 2005.

The charges were dismissed at 10 a.m. today by Jefferson County Branch I Circuit Court Judge John Ullsvik upon recommendation of the state.

“We believe this resolution is in the interests of the public and of justice,” Jefferson County Prosecutor Tris Baker told the Daily Times after a brief hearing in which the judge signed the dismissal.

Parish declined to speak with the media as he left the courtroom this morning, but his attorneys Erik Guenther and Stephen Hurley of the law firm Hurley, Burish & Stanton, S.C. were at his side and issued a written statement to the Daily Times.

“Mr. Parish is thankful that this difficult process is finally brought to a close,” the statement reads, adding Parish has been thankful for the opportunity to have been a part of the Cambridge High School community as an educator and coach.

“The past 12 years have included many proud events,” he said. “While I have appreciated every moment that I have served in the community, the hardship of the allegations that I have faced have caused me to rethink my career path. After consulting with my family and giving this matter much thought, I have chosen to resign from my position at Cambridge High School.”

Parish said he will miss being a teacher and coach in Cambridge, and for now, intends to spend time with his family and friends who he said have been valuable to him during the court process. After a short break, he said, he plans to pursue his coaching education and later become an educator at the collegiate level.

“Mr. Parish is thankful for the support that he and his family have received throughout the community, as they have weathered this storm,” his statement reads.

According to the clerk of court's office, the court record of this morning contains no further explanation for the dismissal and neither Baker nor the attorneys for Parish would make further direct comment on the resolution.

In recent weeks, however, Parish's defense had introduced motions asking Ullsvik to subpoena the alleged victim's mental health and counseling records at Meriter Hospital. The victim was admitted to that facility on Jan. 13 due to suicidal thoughts. They were also seeking records, including hand-written notes, from the woman's subsequent consultations with Mental Health Solutions, as well as all records from Cambridge High School relating to her meetings with counselors since the alleged incident Sept. 14, 2005.

The defense also said there may be counseling records that show the woman may have indicated that no sexual assault occurred.

The documents related to the subpoena request also contained information from the defense regarding the woman's cellular phone records that the defense maintained showed the woman's phone was used during the time period when she claims her phone was lost and also during the time frame of her claim of sexual assault. The defense has maintained Parish was elsewhere during the window of time in which the woman claimed the assault was made.

Overall, the defense maintained the date and time of the alleged assault, as recounted by the accuser, were sufficiently questionable to impeach her credibility.

In addition to the charge of second-degree sexual assault with the use of force, Parish had faced one count each of intimidating a victim with the threat of force and false imprisonment. If convicted on all three of the charges, Parish could have faced a maximum of 56 years in prison and/or a $135,000 fine.


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