New accusations leveled against former Poulsbo mayor

New accusations leveled against former Poulsbo mayor »Play Video
Richard "Mitch" Mitchusson appears at a court hearing on Thursday, March 26.
POULSBO, Wash. - An additional 15 to 20 witnesses have come forward with accusations against former Poulsbo Mayor Richard "Mitch" Mitchusson, who was arrested Wednesday for investigation of assault and stalking.

As a result of the new allegations, additional charges will be brought against Mitchusson on Friday, including at least one felony charge of indecent liberties, Kitsap County Deputy Prosecutor Barbara Dennis said.

In addition, Kitsap County Judge James Riehl raised his bail amount to $200,000 from $70,000, court officials said.

Kitsap County sheriff's detectives said they've uncovered a pattern of indecent behavior by Mitchusson, 70. They believe the former mayor made unwanted personal advances and inappropriate sexual conduct toward several women he knows.

Initially, three victims talked with sheriff's detectives, alleging that Mitchusson engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior, said sheriff's spokesman Scott Wilson.

Detectives believe the incidents, which took place at the women's home or work, began in January 2008 and continued up until this month.

But the new witnesses are alleging even more incidents involving several times as many victims over a longer period of time.

Prosecutors have not yet had time to investigate most of the additional allegations.

But at least one additional felony count will be filed based on a reported incident in 2005 in which Mitchusson allegedly entered the home of a woman who was bedridden due to a broken leg and forced his way into bed with her, prosecutors said.

Mitchusson's lawyer, Matt Clucas, said his client suffers from Pick's Disease, a rare neurological disorder that affects behavior and emotional response. People with Pick's Disease will usually show signs of changes in personality before they manifest evidence of dementia, beginning with impulsiveness or a lack of inhibition.

Mitchusson was arrested on Wednesday afternoon and booked into the Kitsap County Jail on suspicion of the original two counts of fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation and one count of stalking.

Those charges are based on incidents involving three victims.

The first victim, a 58-year-old woman, alleged Mitchusson came to her home uninvited eight times - often in the early morning. On one of those occasions, he walked into her living room, asked her personal questions, hugged her, then grabbed her genital area, according to court papers. He later apologized, she said.

Mitchusson also came to the woman's workplace, the Sons of Norway Hall, so often that she had to quit her job to avoid him, court papers say. When the woman started work with a new employer he began visiting her there uninvited as well, and on one occasion she had to hide to avoid him.

After several more visits to her home and work, the woman put a baseball bat by her door and got a temporary protection order against Mitchusson.

In an interview with detectives Wednesday, Mitchusson said he just wanted to speak with the woman because he thought she may be lonely. He said he only had gone by the home three times, and he denied grabbing her genital area. He also said that hugging is a common form of greeting in Oklahoma, where he comes from.

The second victim, a 64-year-old woman, said she heard a knock at her back door Feb. 21, and when she opened it Mitchusson came walking in uninvited. According to court papers, he hugged her and grabbed her buttocks. When she tried to get away, he "lunged" at her and followed her into the kitchen, court papers say.

The woman said she had known Mitchusson for years, but that lately his actions had grown more aggressive and sexual in nature.

Mitchusson denied lunging at the woman, and said he would not go inside her home again.

The third victim, a 48-year-old woman, said Mitchusson stopped by her home in January 2008 and walked in. She said he first hugged her, which made her uncomfortable, then kissed her on the lips. When that happened, she told deputies, she felt like she would "puke."

She told her employer about the incident, but not the police, because she was fearful of retaliation, according to court documents. Later, she alleged that Mitchusson followed her to her parents' home and cornered her. She grabbed a box and pushed him aside to escape, detectives said.

Mitchusson told police he was checking on her to make sure she was safe.

Anyone who is a victim or has information on the case is urged to contact Detective Chad Birkenfeld at (360) 337-5619 or Det. Steve Duckworth at (360) 337-5669.

Mitchusson served as Poulsbo's mayor from 1985 to 1999. A small plaque donated by Mitchusson is on display outside the front doors of City Hall. It reads, "Thank you, Poulsbo, for allowing me to serve this great community."

Many locals were disheartened to hear the news of Mitchusson's arrest.

"Well, I certainly think it reflects badly on Poulsbo," said resident Teri Gleich. "A great little community and the only thing people will know bout Poulsbo now is that a former mayor is accused of wrongdoing, and that's a shame."