Sex assault trial of coach accused of forced abortion after pregnancy

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A former Gagetown-Owendale softball coach accused of having sex with an underage girl on his team has been found guilty by a Tuscola County jury.

Cory D. Fritz, 27, of Sebewaing, was ruled guilty Monday after a three-day trial on five counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Still no verdict in Fritz case
Huron Daily Tribune Staff Writer
Published: Saturday, August 28, 2010 11:59 AM EDT

CARO — After just two and a half hours spent deliberating Friday afternoon in the criminal sexual conduct case involving a former Owendale-Gagetown softball coach, jurors returned to the courtroom without a verdict and looking exhausted.

“There’s no point in having a marathon deliberation,” Tuscola County Circuit Court Judge Patrick R. Joslyn told the jury, which is made up of 11 women and one man.

The jurors Friday morning started the day hearing lengthy closing arguments by both the prosecution and the defense attorney in the Cory Fritz case.

Fritz, 27, is facing 20 counts of criminal sexual conduct, as prosecutors allege he carried on a sexual relationship with a Gagetown girl while she was 14 and 15 years old.
Friday, after jury instructions were given by the judge, jurors were able to begin deliberating shortly before 2 p.m. When no decision was reached by 4:30 p.m., Joslyn told jurors they could go home, but asked that they turn at 9 a.m. on Monday morning to resume deliberations.

The jury heard two days of testimony from witnesses, including the the alleged victim, friends of the alleged victim, Fritz and two detectives from the Michigan State Police. Jurors also viewed various pieces of evidence, which included photos and statements given by Fritz to police.

Before the deliberation process was under way, the jury heard two very different stories from Tuscola County Prosecutor Mark Reene and Fritz’s attorney Kevin Rieman. Each offered very different timelines of the events.

Reene claims Fritz had a sexual relationship with the alleged victim in the case from August 2005 to March 2006, when the alleged victim was 14 and 15 years old, and that the relationship resulted in a pregnancy.

“In December 2005, (the alleged victim) and I found out she was pregnant,” Reene read to the jury from Fritz’s written statement to the state police on June 17, 2009.

Reene went on the tell the jury “a case like this is like putting together a puzzle. … (Softball) players said he was giving her special attention … giving her rides home from school … and (Fritz and the alleged victim were) going to concerts together.”

During the trial, testimony revealed that the Michigan State Police interviewed both Fritz and the alleged victim separately on June 17, 2009, after allegations surfaced in December 2008 that there was a pregnancy and Fritz and the alleged victim may have done something inappropriate with the baby.

In an earlier written statement to the Tribune, Reene alleged that Fritz claimed during the investigation that the teen delivered the baby in June 2006, and the remains of the infant were buried in a wooded area in Gagetown or Elmwood Township. The jury was not allowed to hear any testimony regarding an alleged baby other than testimony about the teen’s pregnancy.

On Wednesday Det. Brian Ferguson, of the Michigan State Police post in Sandusky, testified that he interviewed the alleged victim at her mother’s Gagetown home on June 17, 2009 for an hour or more.

While Ferguson was on the witness stand, the jury was excused from the courtroom when Rieman asked Ferguson whether the interview was “in regards to killing her baby?”

Ferguson responded that both “she (the alleged victim) and Mr. Fritz punched her belly” when she was pregnant, and he went on to describe how the two allegedly attempted to induce an abortion.

“After the baby came out they (acting together) buried it,” Ferguson said.

No charges have been filed in relationship to buried human remains. Fritz’s bond conditions, initially set by the court, prohibited him from entering Gagetown or Elmwood Township to “remove human remains.”

Rieman told the jury Friday that Fritz was very cooperative during the 2009 interview with police and that Fritz agreed with the dates and the years he was given by the detective in the case, even though the years were wrong because Fritz was concerned about a much more significant matter —the police investigating the whereabouts of the baby.

The jury, during the trial, was able to hear about the alleged pregnancy of the alleged victim, how her appearance allegedly changed throughout the school year and the kind of clothing she wore to conceal the pregnancy, but they continued to be excluded from hearing anything related to the investigation into the baby and its fate.

Reene told the jury on Friday that Fritz’s version of the events were different when he took the witness stand on Thursday compared to when he gave statements to police in June 2009.

“He minimized his relationship and the number of times he had sex with (the alleged victim),” said Reene who went on to tell the jury that Fritz thought he could “lie his way out of the conduct he was in (during) 2005 and 2006.”

Prosecutors allege the victim in the case was 14 and 15 years old when the sexual relationship took place. Fritz took the witness stand on Thursday, telling the jury that she had just turned 16-years-old when the sexual relationship between the two began after the Thanksgiving holiday in 2006. The girl’s age when the sexual relationship began is significant because 16 is the legal age of consent in Michigan.

“These are heavy matters. They (the prosecution) are trying to convict Mr. Fritz of being a sexual felon,” said Rieman, who has stated he believes Reene has made a deal with the alleged victim in the case to testify and “build a case” against Fritz. The alleged victim’s testimony cannot be used against her in the future; however, she was not granted immunity as it relates to the investigation into allegations of a baby.

Rieman, throughout the trial, denied there was any proof of a baby and presented a ticket stub from a Michigan State University basketball game in February 2007, telling the jury that is when Fritz and the alleged victim had a “scare” thinking that she maybe pregnant. Rieman said the date of the game was significant because the prosecution has claimed that the dating/sexual relationship between Fritz and the alleged victim had ended in the summer of 2006.

“They haven’t proven their case. … They haven’t proven she was ever pregnant—they’ve floated it out there,” said Rieman, who asked the jury why there isn’t medical evidence to prove a pregnancy.

Reene was given one more chance to address the jury before they deliberated, telling them the case boils down to he said/she said, “either all the prosecution’s witnesses lied or the defense (witness Cory Fritz) lied.”

Fritz is facing 20 counts of criminal sexual conduct. If convicted, he faces a possible maximum sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

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