In a legal drama that outraged a rural Missouri community, a father who was set free after admitting he’d sodomized and beaten his infant daughter is back in jail.
Aaron Michael Fisher, 28, now faces a charge of first-degree assault, a year after a judge ordered that two charges of sodomy be dismissed because Fisher had been denied his constitutional right to a speedy trial.
But the new case could face legal hurdles because it stems from the same incident. The old case, meanwhile, is headed to the Missouri Supreme Court.
“We got him extradited and he’s going to be spending some time back in Missouri for a while,” said Miller County prosecutor Ben Winfrey.
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The outcome of the earlier case infuriated residents of Miller County, which borders the Lake of the Ozarks on the east. The judge who made the ruling came under fire. The baby’s adoptive parents went into hiding.
After the new charge was filed, Fisher was arrested in Ohio, where he’d gone after being freed.
Winfrey declined to comment further about the new case, as did Fisher’s lawyer, Kimberly Kollmeyer of Jefferson City.
“It’s an incredibly unusual case,” said Kansas City defense attorney John Picerno, who is not involved.
The statute of limitations could come into play. Perhaps double jeopardy, too. Also, elements used in charges that a judge ordered dismissed typically cannot be used to file new charges, Picerno said.
“Sounds like they’re trying to get him any way they can,” he said.
Court documents say that during questioning after the Oct. 27, 2009, incident, Fisher told detectives that while his wife was at work he watched pornographic movies and then sodomized his 5-month-old daughter.
The baby would not stop crying afterward, so Fisher “hit her in the head with his fist as hard as he could,” according to court documents. After being life-flighted, the infant spent eight days in a Columbia hospital with severe physical injuries, including skull fractures and extensive hemorrhaging.
The alleged incident occurred at the Fisher family’s house in the village of Brumley, Mo. Fisher was charged with two counts of forcible sodomy.
The case encountered a series of continuances and delays. Several trial dates were postponed.
On July 28, 2014, Fisher pleaded guilty, but later recanted his confession, saying he didn’t remember what happened. The judge allowed Fisher to withdraw his guilty plea.
Finally, on Oct. 23, 2015, nearly six years after the alleged crime, Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce granted a defense motion by public defender Jason Emmons that Fisher had been denied his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial.
Joyce’s ruling sharply criticized former Miller County prosecutor Matt Howard for failing to bring the case to trial. Howard, Joyce wrote, “blatantly disregarded the United States Constitution and the Missouri Constitution in that he had at least six trial settings over a 5-year period and failed to bring any type of justice to the county of Miller.”
Winfrey, who had taken over the prosecutor’s job 10 months earlier, immediately filed notice that he would ask the Missouri Court of Appeals’ Western District in Kansas City to overturn Joyce’s ruling. A Missouri legislator called for an investigation into Joyce’s decision, which stunned the victim’s adoptive parents.
The adoptive mother said Miller could get a job around children because nothing would show up on a background check.
“He’s a ghost,” she told LakeExpo.com. “He doesn’t have to report to anyone. He’s walking the streets.”
Last month, the court of appeals affirmed Joyce’s ruling, saying the state had failed to prove that Fisher caused the delays. The case is now headed to the Missouri Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, a hearing on the new charge is set for Monday at the Miller County Courthouse in Tuscumbia. Bond for Fisher is set at $100,000.
Donald Bradley: 816-234-4182