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Toby Studabaker: Man With a Past?

Aired July 17, 2003 - 14:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, this isn't the first time Toby Studabaker has faced legal problems involving young girls. According to a 1998 affidavit filed in Michigan, a 12-year-old relative complained that Studebaker fondled her while they were wrestling and gave a 9-year-old girl relative bubblegum flavored sex lubricant. Studabaker was never charged. Prosecutor Douglas Fisher dropped the case, citing a lack of evidence. He's on the phone with us from Centerville, Michigan.
We appreciate you being with us, Douglas.

DOUGLAS FISHER, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Thank you.

PHILLIPS: Take us back to this Michigan case and did he have a history of sexual misconduct of any kind when you took it on?

FISHER: As we started our case, he had no history whatsoever of sexual misconduct. The charge involving the sexual lubricant was never authorized. The charge involving the allegation of a sexual touching during a play wrestling match with a 12-year-old victim was charged, but during the preliminary proceeding was dropped.

PHILLIPS: What evidence overall did you have in this case?

FISHER: The only evidence we had was the testimony of the 12- year-old victim. She would have testified that while wrestling, he touched her breasts twice.

PHILLIPS: And why wasn't this enough?

FISHER: It is technical enough to support a conviction. In this case, it's a matter of her testimony versus his testimony, which is not the strongest possible case.

We also learned from other sources that he would have some evidence that he was in another state at the time of the offense, and that he had some sort after a shoulder or arm injury and was in a sling at the time of the offense, which would make less probable the play wrestling. We were -- due to several circumstances where we're not able to either confirm or disprove those claims that he made or would make.

PHILLIPS: Was he in the military at that time?

FISHER: No, he was not. PHILLIPS: He was not. So there would have been -- when he decided to go into the military, there would have been no record of this because he was never convicted?

FISHER: That's correct.

PHILLIPS: Now, why did you decide to drop this criminal case against Studabaker?

FISHER: The primary reason is this is a 12-year-old victim. And to -- for a 12-year-old victim to tell a story of her -- actually probably her only sexual experience in her whole life before a jury of 12 strangers is extremely difficult and it's very traumatic. And then because of the other potential evidence against her, her chances -- the chances for conviction were not good. They were probably 30 or 40 percent. And for that girl to testify like that, pour her heart out to the jury and then be rejected by a jury is simply devastating. And the nature of this offense, it wasn't -- it wasn't wise to risk her devastation on a slight chance of conviction.

And so I dropped the case. I made that decision. It was while I was the chief assistant prosecutor at that time.

PHILLIPS: Douglas, how do you feel now when you see this story and you see what's happening?

FISHER: I don't feel bad now because the child has been returned safely to her parents. But when I was in fear that she might -- who knows what might have happened to her? She might have been murdered, might have been some evidence of terrible sexual assaults.

I feel very badly. I wished that I had, in fact, tried as hard as I could, even sacrificing the well-being of a victim, to prevent this sort of further action. But now that that -- the new victim is safe, I am very, very reassured. I'm very relieved.

PHILLIPS: Taking a look -- my final question, Douglas -- at what happened here, though. Even if he would have been convicted back in Michigan when you were on this case -- I mean, a couple months of probation, jail, counseling -- I mean, do you think the system is tough enough?

FISHER: Yes, I do in -- with respect to this because the crime itself, Kyra, was only a very minor, momentary fondling during some wrestling. If the sexual intent was actual and true, it was just a momentary giving into some temptation and was not followed through with any other attempts at seduction or forceable rape. So, some -- a few years of probation, a few months of jail, a thorough counseling program I think is appropriate and under those circumstances.

I think that our first attempt should always be to rehabilitate and years in prison, particularly for sexual offenders is not particularly successful for rehabilitation. Counseling and local treatment is usually more effective.

PHILLIPS: Douglas Fisher, we sure appreciate your time. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com




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