Scales of justice

A child involved in a sexual molestation case has told Yellowstone County authorities she doesn't want to be interviewed anymore.

The girl, who was 9 years old when the alleged crimes occurred in 2015, has already been interviewed three times by officials in two separate counties.

The alleged crimes occurred in several counties across the state. The case comes ahead of the implementation this year of Marsy's Law, which would allow victims to refuse pre-trial interviews. 

Prosecutors in both Missoula and Yellowstone counties charged 57-year-old John Jaycob Fishbaugh, who was working as a commercial truck driver, with the alleged molestation.

Missoula later dismissed its case and Yellowstone County took over the prosecution of Fishbaugh, charging him with sexual intercourse without consent, sexual assault and sexual abuse of children. 

The child underwent two interviews, by someone trained to question children, prior to the case moving to Yellowstone County. A third interview was done by Fishbaugh's Missoula defense attorney.

On Thursday, Fishbaugh's Billings defense team argued for the right to speak with the child prior to trial. 

Billings attorney Ashley Harada said the recorded forensic interviews are too vague and she needs to ask more specific questions. 

Senior Deputy County Attorney Brett Linneweber said another interview would further traumatize the victim. 

Christine Gascon, a licensed counselor and witness for the prosecution, said studies show about 22 percent of children who underwent a traumatic event attempted suicide later in life. That jumps to 42 percent for children forced to relive the trauma multiple times, Gascon said. 

Interviewing the girl again is essential for Harada and co-counsel Alex Roth to provide a good defense for Fishbaugh, Harada said. 

Yellowstone County District Court Judge Rod Souza said Harada could subpoena the girl, at which point Harada would need to show good cause as to why the interview was needed.

While not in effect yet, Souza also requested the parties address the issue of Marsy's Law, given that it creates a right for victims to refuse an interview with defense prior to trial. 

Roth argued Fishbaugh has a constitutional right to confront his accuser. 

That right only exists at trial, Linneweber countered. 

Interviewing a victim was never a problem in the past, Harada said.

Both parties agreed a forensic interview of the child by a trained expert could be negotiated, as opposed to defense attorneys interviewing the child. 

Souza made it clear his ruling would not rely on Marsy's Law, which does not go into effect until July 1. Souza's ruling will be handed down at a later date. 

Fishbaugh was scheduled for trial in February, but Harada said she would like to reset it for another date. 

Fishbaugh was released after posting a $75,000 bond. 

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