Ashland police on Thursday clarified why they cited the high school swim coach last week for failure to report suspected sexual misconduct between his 24-year-old son, a volunteer coach, and a 14-year-old member of the team.
Chief Terry Holderness said that while it does not appear Ashland High School head coach Steve Mitzel had specific evidence of his son's alleged misconduct with the freshman student, Mitzel "had been told that sexual activity had occurred."
"He is specifically required to pass that information because he is a mandatory reporter," Holderness said. "He was cited because he did not do that."
Mitzel's son, Camren Michael Mitzel, of Ashland, pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Jackson County Circuit Court to four counts of third-degree rape and four counts of second-degree sexual abuse stemming from four alleged incidents during the 2012-13 swim season. He remains lodged in the Jackson County Jail with his bail set at $50,000. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Aug. 24.
Holderness had said previously he did not believe Steve Mitzel had been aware of his son's alleged crimes and called the failure-to-report citation a "technical violation." He said Steve Mitzel was fully cooperating with the investigation.
State law requires mandatory reporters to tell authorities about any incidents of physical or sexual abuse of children if they have reasonable cause to believe the abuse has occurred. A mandatory reporter who violates this duty commits a Class-A misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine, said Adam Peterson, a Jackson County prosecutor not affiliated with the case.
Mandatory reporters include teachers, coaches, physicians, clergy, firefighters, law enforcement officers, social workers and more under Oregon Revised Statute 419B.005.
Holderness said Camren Mitzel's alleged crimes were reported to a separate agency, which then contacted APD to follow up with an investigation.
A several-week APD investigation determined that Camren Mitzel didn't use violence or physical force, but rape and sexual abuse charges were still warranted, police said.
The age of sexual consent in Oregon is 18 for an unmarried minor, Peterson said. Third-degree rape is defined as having sexual intercourse with a person younger than 16. Second-degree sexual abuse can be charged if the perpetrator is 21 or older and was the victim's coach.
"There is an enhancement under the law if the perpetrator is the victim's coach," Peterson said.
Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.