UPDATED: A Sussex County Court Of Common Pleas Jury finds Ralph Mitchell NOT GUILTY

Apr 11, 2013 -- 5:22pm

UPDATED 8:45 PM BY ANDREW KOCH: Ralph Mitchell took the stand in his own defense this afternoon. He testified that he's always had a "sophmoric" sense of humor. During the Bethany Beach Police Department's Christmas Party at Smitty McGee's on December 15, 2011, he says he tried to drop a piece of ice down Secretary Amy Cresto's blouse. He says people, including Cresto, laughed a little bit, and Cresto blushed. He admitted that in hindsight, he probably shouldn't have tried to drop the piece of ice down her blouse, and that she didn't say he could do it, but he did so on the spur of the moment. He says he didn't recall touching her breasts. Three officers, including Chief Mike Redmon, testified that there wasn't any ice on the table, and they saw Mitchell put his hand down her shirt.

Mitchell says he thought Cresto was joking when she pulled out her pocket knife, and responded by also pulling out his pocket knife in jest, but then concluded that she was being serious when she said "Don't ever (expletive) touch me again!" He says he easily could've gone outside to his truck, picked up his cell phoned, called the State Police and said he'd been threatened with a knife, but chose not to.

Defense attorney Joe Hurley called Cresto's honesty into question, citing her journal that wasn't in chronological order, as well as how she'd been placed on an additional year of probation for not being truthful about times she stayed home sick from work. Hurley also contended that it was a stretch to say that some of the comments and actions by Mitchell that she wrote about could be considered sexual harassment. He also said the timing was "interesting" that just two weeks after the alleged incident at the Christmas party, Cresto's attorney, Jim Hall, sent a letter to town officials notifying them that they'd be the defendants in a sexual harassment lawsuit, without her approval. However, Cresto testified that a lawsuit hasn't been filed at this time. Hurley argued that was because she and Hall were waiting to see what the outcome of the criminal trial would be.

UPDATED - 6PM:  The jury deliberated the fate of former Bethany Beach Public Safety Director, Ralph Mitchell, for just over 45 minutes this afternoon.  They came back with a finding of NOT GUILTY of the charge of 3rd degree unlawful sexual contact.  Former town employee Amy Cresto testified that at their Christmas party, Mitchell reached across the table, and put his hand down her shirt and into her cleavage, touching both breasts.



The trial of former Bethany Beach Safety Director Ralph Mitchell has gone to the jury.  WGMD's Andrew Koch has more...

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