Tuesday, Apr. 16, 2024

Fellers Pleads Not Guilty To Federal Sexual Assault Charge

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This story has been updated with comments from the attorney of Fellers’ alleged victim.

Olympic show jumper Rich Fellers has been charged in federal court with one felony charge related to his alleged sexual abuse of his former student Maggie Kehring. The federal charge comes almost two years after Fellers was arrested in Oregon on four felony counts of sexual abuse involving Kehring, who was 17 at the time of the alleged abuse. 

Fellers pleaded not guilty to the felony charge of “interstate travel to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor” before Magistrate Judge Jeff Armistead. A three-day jury trial has been scheduled for July 11 in a Portland federal courtroom, according to court documents. 

During a January hearing held in Washington County (Oregon) District Court earlier this year, Fellers’ attorney told a district judge that they had reached a resolution with the Washington County district attorney’s office and the U.S. attorney’s office that would involve Fellers entering a plea in federal court, being sentenced there, and then “likely” entering his plea on the state charges from a medium-security prison in Sheridan, Oregon.

Russell Prince, an attorney for the Kehring family who represented Maggie in her previous U.S. Center for SafeSport case that resulted in Fellers being ruled ineligible to participate in U.S. Equestrian Federation competition, said the trainer’s not-guilty plea is part of the legal process necessary to move the plea deal forward rather than an indication he plans to fight.

“What you’re seeing is merely procedural formalities in order to get him arraigned in federal court so he can accept this plea deal,” said Prince, whose firm Bryan & Prince, PA, represents several sexual abuse victims in equestrian sport. “The most likely reason it got moved is because whatever plea deal they’re planning on accepting, he was likely asking to serve his time in federal custody as opposed to state custody.”

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Prince said that distinction is particularly important in light of the negative reception the case and Kehring herself have gotten from some members of the horse community in the past.

“At the end of the day, it’s frustrating because Maggie has been relentlessly attacked by different corners of the equestrian industry who had no idea what the underlying acts really were. My fear is that this sends the wrong message to the equestrian community that he’s going to get his day in court,” he said. “She’s not on trial, she’s thriving right now in Europe.

“It scares me when I hear people talking about things in a way that has the ability to unpack that,” he added, “because it’s incredibly unlikely there’s ever going to be a trial. If the equestrian community had seen the underlying facts and circumstances related to this case, no one would have ever attacked Maggie in the first place.”

Fellers’ attorney Mike De Muniz has said he will not grant interviews about the case.

Fellers previously pleaded not guilty to all charges after his June 7, 2021, arrest and still has a jury trial scheduled for August in Washington County, but that is not expected to go forward, with the federal case taking precedence.

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