Appeals court overturns conviction of former Muncie Central principal over response to rape

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The Indiana Court of Appeals overturned the conviction of a former principal of Muncie Central High School concerning his response to a reported sexual assault at the school.

In a 2-1 vote Wednesday, the court said Chris Smith shouldn’t have been found guilty of failure to immediately report child abuse or neglect.

Smith was convicted of the misdemeanor after prosecutors said he broke state law by failing to immediately notify authorities of the rape. The case involved a reported rape at the school in 2010.

After a two-day trial, a judge found Smith guilty. He was placed on probation and ordered to perform community service.

Defense attorneys argued that Smith and other administrators hadn’t considered the two 16-year-old students to be children—thus, they wouldn’t have considered it a case of child abuse.

In the opinion, the court said Smith and other administrators didn’t immediately report the rape because they first investigated the allegations. The court said there was insufficient evidence to prove that “Smith ignored the alleged assault.”

In the majority opinion, Judge Elaine Brown wrote that “a reasonable investigation made in good faith of such an allegation prior to making a report is not improper and does not deprive the person required to make such a report of statutory immunity.”

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