Jury finds Wessington Springs man not guilty of child rape
WESSINGTON SPRINGS -- A jury found a Wessington Springs man not guilty Monday after he was charged with child rape and sexual contact with a minor. Mitch Caffee, 33, appeared at the Jerauld County Courthouse in Wessington Springs for a three-day ...
WESSINGTON SPRINGS - A jury found a Wessington Springs man not guilty Monday after he was charged with child rape and sexual contact with a minor.
Mitch Caffee, 33, appeared at the Jerauld County Courthouse in Wessington Springs for a three-day trial, in which he was charged with seven counts of first-degree rape and four counts of sexual contact with a 7- to 10-year-old girl, from July 2, 2012, to Jan. 22, 2016, in a trailer home, a hotel, a home in the country and a pickup in and around Wessington Springs.
After the jury made its decision, Caffee declined to comment, but his attorney, Steven Smith, said he was "Relieved. Extremely relieved."
During his closing argument, Smith said the girl - whose name is not being printed by The Daily Republic because she is a minor - learned about sex from a pornographic video, which is why she said the incidents occurred exactly the same way "a couple times a week," which equals 300 to 400 times.
Smith said the girl made up the story because he felt she wanted to be YouTube star, she didn't want her friends to think she was a liar after the story spread, she wanted to be sent to live with her dad and she wanted Caffee to go to jail to become "nice."
Furthermore, Smith paid homage to the town's Shakespeare Garden, calling the state's case a false version of facts and "a rehearsal."
"This trial should have started in Shakespeare Gardens. It shouldn't have started here," Smith said to the jury. "That's what we had. Rehearsal. You guys are supposed to make a decision based upon rehearsal."
Furthermore, Smith said Caffee had no motive nor opportunity to commit the crimes because the girl's mother was always around.
"You know what the verdict is you have to give," Smith said. "You know it in your heart. You have to stick with that and come back at the end of this day and say, 'Not guilty.' "
Jerauld County State's Attorney Dedrich Koch said the girl could not give a vivid description of the incidents - at one point saying the alleged sexual assault was "like a million stinging bees entering her body" - unless she truly experienced rape.
"She described to you things no little child could know unless they've experienced it," Koch said. "He crawled out on that web and devoured her a little bit at a time over and over again until he took that innocence we all hold sacred."
Koch said the girl couldn't go to her mother for help because the mother said nothing kind about her daughter when she was called to the witness stand, showing the mother was not a caring person who would listen to her daughter's claims. Koch also criticized a doctor hired by the defense as a "professional witness," who said there was no forensic evidence of rape.
Lastly, Koch called on the jury to find Caffee guilty not only to tell Caffee his actions were unacceptable, but also to protect the girl from this happening again.
"The fact is, we're never going to know why Mr. Caffee did this to her. We do know this: He wasn't going to stop," Koch said. "You have in your hands the power to stop this."
After approximately 90 minutes of deliberation, the jury sided with the defense. Koch declined to comment, but Smith thanked the jury for their decision.
"The people of Wessington Springs did a fine job in a difficult set of circumstances," Smith said.