EX-PROFESSOR CONVICTED OF ORMOND CHILD SEX CRIME GRANTED RELEASE
September 14, 2019
Former ERAU Professor Mark Fugler will be free while his case is appealed and Volusia Sheriff Mike Chitwood is outraged at the judge’s decision.
DAYTONA BEACH — A former Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University professor sentenced to 15 years in prison for sexual misconduct with a child was set free by a judge while the ex-educator appeals his sentence.
The decision by Senior Judge R. Michael Hutcheson to release Mark Fugler outraged Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood, who posted several critical tweets Friday.
“You have a 7-year-old victim whose childhood was stolen from her and this guy deserves a break?” Chitwood said in a phone interview. “I think this is ridiculous.”
The sheriff added: “This is stealing a child’s innocence. We are supposed to be protecting our children against predators like this guy.”
In one of Chitwood’s tweets, he wrote, “I strongly disagree with Judge Hutcheson’s decision in this case. An injustice & a slap in the face of the young victim and her family.”
The 61-year-old Fugler, an Ormond Beach resident, was convicted by a jury on June 6 of three counts each of lewd and lascivious exhibition, lewd and lascivious conduct and showing obscene materials to a minor. Fugler had faced up to 105 years in prison.
When asked for a response from the judge and her office to Chitwood’s comments, Court Communications Officer Ludmilla Lelis said that judges are barred by ethical rules from commenting on pending cases such as Fugler’s.
“We don’t respond on pending cases,” Lelis said. “The judge can’t. I can’t. It’s pending.”
The State Attorney’s Office also said it is reviewing whether to appeal Hutcheson’s ruling, according to spokesman Spencer Hathaway, who said they are limited on what they can say on pending cases. But the office did email a brief comment.
“The Prosecutors opposed the granting of a supersedeas bond in this case and argued that the defendant should begin serving his sentence immediately,” according to the email from the office.
The nature of the offenses are contemptible but Hutcheson heard all the evidence and was in a good position to make a decision on the bond, said Charles Rose, a former Stetson College of Law professor who is now the dean of the Ohio Northern University College of Law.
Rose said the judge considered the nature of the offense by ordering that Fugler wear a monitor, stay away from the victim and register as a sex offender.
“They take into account the heinous nature of the offense and the potential for future misconduct,” Rose said.
Fugler was an engineering professor at Embry-Riddle when he was arrested on Nov. 4, 2016, by Ormond Beach police. He is suing the university for suspending him without pay when the allegations against him surfaced.
His victim was a 7-year-old girl in 2016 when she said that Fugler had shown her obscene material, exposed himself to her and attempted to have her touch his genitals, prosecutors said.
The youngster’s mother learned of the offenses on Sept. 28, 2016, when she found a diary kept by the girl.
After Fugler was convicted, Hutcheson sentenced him on Aug. 15 to the 15 years and ordered him to register as a sex offender once released from prison.
On Thursday, Hutcheson granted Fugler’s supersedeas bond, allowing Fugler to be free while he appeals his case to the 5th District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach.
Hutcheson said Fugler was to remain at the Volusia County Branch Jail pending his release. And according to the jail’s website Fugler was still there on Friday afternoon.
Hutcheson ordered that Fugler must register as a sex offender and wear a GPS monitor. Fugler did not appear Friday in a search of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s sex offender website.
The judge also ordered that Fugler have no contact with his victim or her family.
Fugler’s attorney, Jason T. Forman of Fort Lauderdale, argued in the motion for supersedeas bond that Fugler had no prior felony convictions before this case and had been free before trial with a GPS monitor on a bond of $200,000 without incident. Forman said Fugler never failed to appear in court.
Fugler has lived in Ormond Beach for 26 years and has been married for more than 38 years, Forman said.
Forman wrote in the motion that Fugler would reside with his wife.
Fugler’s neighbor, Dede Siebenaler of River Ridge Trail in Ormond Beach, said she was at home when police raided the former professor’s house before his eventual arrest and she is not happy at the prospect of him returning.
“I think it’s scary for families in the neighborhood with children,” Siebenaler said. “Where is the justice for this little girl?”
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