Father of AHS swim team abuse suspect cited for failure to report

Ashland High School's head swim coach was cited by police Friday for failure to report child abuse related to multiple sex charges his son, a former AHS volunteer swim coach, faces for his alleged misconduct with a 14-year-old girl on the team.

But Ashland Police Chief Terry Holderness said Monday he did not believe that head coach Steve Mitzel, of Ashland, was aware of his son's alleged conduct with the freshman student and that Mitzel cooperated fully with Ashland police during the investigation.

"I don't believe that he (Steve Mitzel) knew about any of the incidents," Holderness said.

The police chief referred to the citation as a "technical violation," saying it was handed out only because Mitzel, as a coach at AHS, is a state-mandated child abuse reporter.

As of Monday evening, Camren M. Mitzel, 24, of Ashland, remained lodged in the Jackson County Jail on four counts of third-degree rape and four counts of second-degree sexual assault, with his bail set at $50,000.

Camren Mitzel was arrested one week ago by Ashland police after a several-week investigation turned up allegations that he had engaged in sexual encounters with a 14-year-old female swimmer.

Holderness would not elaborate on the nature of the technical violation against the senior Mitzel.

According to the Oregon statutes requiring public officials to report child abuse, a mandatory reporter having "reasonable cause to believe," abuse has taken place must submit an "oral report by telephone or otherwise to the local office of the Department of Human Services, to the designee of the department or to a law enforcement agency within the county where the person making the report is located at the time of the contact."

Holderness stressed that Steve Mitzel was not accused of withholding evidence in the case from police.

"We're certainly not claiming that he knew specifically about anything," Holderness said.

Mitzel, who is also information technology director at AHS, did not return phone messages left Monday.

Ashland School District Superintendent Jay Hummel did not return phones messages left at his office last week and Monday. Michelle Zundel, AHS principle, said she would not comment on Mitzel's citation.

Last week, Zundel said the school district would conduct an internal investigation of the incident once the police investigation is complete.

"The health and safety of our students is of paramount importance and we take this very seriously," she said in an email sent Wednesday.

Holderness said police determined that "no force was used" between Camren Mitzel and the teenage girl.

Holderness said Camren Mitzel was charged with four counts for each alleged crime because "we can demonstrate there were four different acts" involving the victim.

Each of the four alleged acts took place on or between Oct. 2, 2012, and March 31, 2013, said Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Lorenzo Mejia during Camren Mitzel's arraignment on Wednesday. That time frame spans the 2012-2013 swim season at AHS.

A preliminary hearing for Camren Mitzel is scheduled for 4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 7, in Jackson County Circuit Court.

Sam Wheeler is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him as samuelcwheeler@gmail.com.

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