A former high school principal in Maine is facing criminal charges after a student alleged he asked her for sex in a private meeting in his office this August.
District Attorney Maeghan Moloney announced Thursday that Don Reiter will be charged with misdemeanor Official Oppression, or misuse of public office. Maloney said she would have charged him with felony Attempted Gross Sexual Assault, but in Maine, the statute cannot be applied if the victim is 18 or older.
"The crime of official oppression, while it is a misdemeanor, is an important statute because it holds public officials accountable," said Maloney.
The victim alleges that Reiter called her out of class and met with her privately in his office in the fall. She said he asked her if she could keep a secret, and said every year he chooses one student to have sex with. This year, the victim said he chose her.
"I do believe the victim, and that's why I’m bringing this case forward," said Maloney.
Reiter has maintained his innocence, and through his attorney, alleges that it was the student who made an advance on him. The Waterville Police Department has been investigating the case since September, and the Waterville superintendent conducted his own internal investigation. After the superintendent's recommendation to the school board that Reiter be fired, he was dismissed from his job on Monday night.
The case has deeply divided the Waterville community, where many students and parents stand by the former principal. They refuse to believe the allegations against him are true, and worry this sets a precedent that any student can accuse any educator of wrong doing, and have them fired.
Maloney said the backlash from the community has been hard for the victim to take.
"She has been ridiculed, and called a liar," said Maloney.
Since her allegations were made public, other students from Reiter's previous job at Mascenic High School in New Hampshire have come forward with similar allegations. Police in New Hampshire and Maine continue to investigate those claims.
Maloney said the new allegations from New Hampshire did not influence her decision to charge Reiter with a crime in Maine, but she could use the evidence against him in trial or in sentencing.
"It shows a motive, it shows a plan," she said.
Reiter's criminal defense attorney, Walter McKee, said he is surprised at the charges.
"This case has more issues than National Geographic," McKee said. He argues that the facts are disputed, and that the evidence does not fit a corruption charge.
"The fact that this is being charged at such a low level, with such an odd charge, gives us a signal as to the importance of this case," said McKee.
He said it comes down to a "he said, she said" case – and even if the jury believes the victim, he doesn't think a crime was committed.
"Under Maine law, as it stands right now, there's no question that what she says happened is not a crime," said McKee.