WAPAKONETA — Former New Knoxville basketball coach Cole Fischbach was found guilty late Tuesday on two of the seven charges he was facing related to accusations of having an inappropriate relationship with a female student prior to his resignation last summer.
Fischbach was convicted on two counts of disseminating material harmful to juveniles. Because the material was deemed harmful but not obscene, each count is considered a first-degree misdemeanor. Fischbach was found not guilty of two counts of sexual imposition, tampering with evidence, and two other counts of disseminating material harmful to juveniles. The verdict was reached just before 10 p.m.
The timetable for a sentencing hearing has not yet been posted.
Jurors heard Tuesday from New Knoxville administrators, a soccer coach who described Fischbach and the alleged victim as so close she thought they were related and investigators who searched Fischbach’s phone, which did not return any sexually explicit photos described in Monday’s testimony.
Still, the BCI search of Fischbach’s phone data showed evidence of missing photos, which had reportedly been taken around the time he was accused of sending nude photos to the 14-year-old girl.
And call records from the girl’s phone show her and Fischbach Facetiming regularly last June, while those calls were missing from Fischbach’s phone during the BCI search.
Assistant prosecuting attorney Laia Zink argued that the missing records and Fischbach’s search history, which showed him Googling how to log out of Snapchat the same day New Knoxville administrators warned him against working one-on-one with the alleged victim, suggested he tampered with evidence because he knew an investigation was likely.
He was interviewed by detectives from the Auglaize County Sheriff’s Office several days later, during which Fischbach voluntarily submitted his phone for a search.
But after two days of testimony, defense attorney Robert Gryzbowski argued that the state failed to provide physical evidence of the sexually explicit photos and videos that formed the basis of several charges against Fischbach, noting that an inappropriate relationship is not the same as a crime.
And the former coach cooperated with investigators, voluntarily sitting for nearly two hours of questioning last summer and consenting to have his phone searched without a warrant. “Is that somebody hiding something?” Gryzbowski asked in closing statements Tuesday.
Zink argued that the photos were missing in part because Fischbach reportedly tampered with the evidence, noting that the nature of Snapchat made any deleted photos irretrievable.