VALPARAISO | Prosecutors have dismissed charges against a 59-year-old man who was accused of engaging in sex acts with a much younger man with Down syndrome in his care at the InPact Inc. home in Valparaiso.
Porter County Deputy Prosecutor Cheryl Polarek said while her office believes Michael Ritchie abused the 20-year-old man and believes it can be proved at trial, it was determined it is not in the best interest of the purported victim to testify.
The charges were dismissed without prejudice, which means they can be refiled in the future.
Defense attorney Bob Harper said Ritchie has maintained his innocence from the start and obviously is pleased the charges of criminal deviate conduct and sexual battery were dismissed.
"This has been a long and drawn-out process for him," Harper said.
Ritchie spent a year behind bars until his bond was reduced dramatically last fall. The case was to have gone to trial next week.
Ritchie was accused of fondling and performing other sex acts on the man, who lived at the group home in the 3100 block of Heavilin Road.
The young man was a resident of the home from 2004 to July 2009, during which time his grandmother became uncomfortable with Ritchie taking boys on trips and doing other things without other caregivers present.
Police spoke to the grandson, and he stated he and another resident of the group home played "Santa Claus" -- the name that was used for the sex act -- in Ritchie's office.
Harper had attempted to prevent the purported victim from testifying, arguing his disability interferes with his ability to relate what happened to him.
Porter Superior Court Judge Bill Alexa threw out a similar challenge last fall after determining the young man was competent to testify against Ritchie.