|Updated with Stopkotte media statement
HAMILTON COUNTY, Indiana, March 6. KEN Stopkotte, the former Fishers area swimming coach who was arrested on eight counts of felony theft from Hamilton Southeastern Schools in Nov. 2010, had all eight charges against him dropped today by Judge Gail Bardach of the Hamilton County Superior Court according to court documents.
In a protracted legal battle that included a bond initially being set for $40,000 on Nov. 22, 2010 according to court documents, Stopkotte and his representation including Jonathan Little earned his freedom from criminal court.
The battle included a bevy of court motions that included rescheduling a jury trial multiple times, beginning with a March 29, 2011 date and ending with a final court date schedule for March 27, 2012. The case included four other trial commencement dates during the process (June 2, 2011, Sept. 27, 2011, Nov. 29, 2011, Feb. 7, 2012).
The original allegations that led to Stopkotte's arrest stated that almost $17,000 in rental fees for the use of the Fishers High School pool were stolen by Stopkotte.
"The original allegations in the Official Affidavit for Probable Cause as signed by Fishers Police Detective Daniel Nelson led to media insinuations and statements that I "stole", "pocketed rental fees", and was charged with "felony theft". Nowhere in the affidavit did it state that I personally misused or otherwise used the nearly $17,000 in question for my own personal benefit. Rather the document refers to me depositing the money into a "private account" for Swim Club expenses," Stopkotte said in a statement to the media. "The so-called "private account" was opened under the name of the Fishers Area Swimming Team and was used as an operating account for the swim club that paid for the high school swimming and diving team's pool equipment and to pay for stipends to Fishers High School swimming coaches. There was no theft. There were no pocketed rental fees and there was no stolen money. There was no evidence or even an allegation that I used the money for personal use. I am relieved that my good name has been restored. The financial and emotional damages to my family and I have been devastating. I will not be making any further statements."
Stopkotte is still in the midst of a two-year ban from USA Swimming, and a five-year ban from Indiana Swimming, after begrudgingly admitting that he "took an administrative shortcut and merged and submitted actual times achieved in high school meets into USA Swimming sanctioned meets." The ban, implemented in Aug. 2010, followed an investigation which stated that Stopkotte altered or inserted 180 times, including the reversal of 31 disqualifications, as legal swims. Earlier in the month, Stopkotte resigned as the head coach of the Fishers Area Swimming Team and Fishers High School.
Stopkotte is also known for appearing on the ABC News 20/20 piece in April 2010 stating that sexual abuse within the sport is "something that coaches talk about all the time," as part of a call against USA Swimming leadership. He later filed a joint complaint with Michael Saltzstein stating that they faced retribution for public comments against USA Swimming.
Earlier today, Stopkotte released the following statement via email and his personal Facebook account:
Case Dismissed -- NOT GUILTY
Friends, as many of you know the last two years of my life has been a living hell. In November of 2010, I was falsely accused by the Hamilton Southeastern School Corporation in Fishers, Indiana of eight felony counts of theft and arrested (without bail) in Franklin, Tennessee. After spending the first 45 years of my life of trying to be an honest and hardworking citizen and never being accused of a crime worse than a few speeding and parking tickets, I spent seven days in the Williamson County (Tennessee) jail in isolated maximum lockdown (where I was only able to come out of the cell for one hour every two days). From there, I was extradited to Fishers, Indiana in a transport wagon and spent another two days in the Hamilton, County jail awaiting a bail hearing before I was finally released. I missed Thanksgiving Day with my family, my faith was greatly tested and my life changed forever. As the case dragged out, these charges have subsequently hung over my head like a black cloud for sixteen months and the financial and emotional damages to my family and I have been devastating.
The case never went to trial and the prosecution came to the realization through the depositions and non-existent evidence that they needed to drop the case because of the school district's false and misleading information to the Fishers Police Department. Unfortunately, the collateral damages were significant and it took 15 months out of my life.
While many of you reached out to me with encouraging emails, notes, texts & phone calls, I apologize if I didn't always respond or stay in touch. It was a very depressing, embarrassing and humiliating period of my life and it was extremely difficult and painful for me to interact with people.
I would like to thank all my friends, former athletes, former co-workers and my family (specifically my sons, Jacob & Noah, Mom, Dad and my sisters, Jill & Chris) for all their support and never giving up on me during this horrible ordeal.