In 1996 and 1997, Richard Kittilstad, a pastor in Eau Claire County, Wisconsin, hosted several Panamanian male students while they attended a local technical college. Four of the students accused Kittilstad of repeatedly offering them money during those two years if they allowed him to watch while they had sex with women. Kittilstad denied the accusations, but the four students testified against him at trial and the prosecution presented an incriminating tape recording of a conversation between Kittilstad and one of the students. In April 2001, a jury convicted Kittilstad of four counts of soliciting prostitution, and he was given a 10 year suspended sentence and placed on probation.
In 2002, Kittilstad’s probation was revoked after he violated its terms by contacting one of the students, and he was sent to prison. The Wisconsin Innocence Project then took his case and tracked down one of the Panamanian students who had left the U.S. before the allegations were made. That student told attorneys that before he left, the other four students had approached him about fabricating the allegations against Kittilstad so that they could remain in the U.S. longer than their student visas would allow. In addition, Kittilstad’s attorneys established that the audio recording of what the prosecution claimed was a single conversation between Kittilstad and one of the students was actually an edited recording combining parts of several conversations. Kittilstad filed a motion for a new trial and, in October 2007, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals overturned his conviction and he was released on his own recognizance. In November 2007, the prosecution announced that Kittilstad would not be retried.
- Stephanie Denzel