Mary Frances “Debbie” Fletcher, now 45, will be awarded day-for-day credit for any time she spends in a residential treatment center over the next year, ruled Judge William Davis in a Yreka courtroom on Wednesday, June 10. Fletcher is accused of inappropriate sexual relationships with three then-teenagers who played on the Mount Shasta High School football team.
A McCloud woman accused of having inappropriate relationships in 2015 with three Mount Shasta High School football players was sentenced last week to six months in jail.
Mary Frances “Debbie” Fletcher, now 45, will be awarded day-for-day credit for any time she spends in a residential treatment center over the next year, ruled Judge William Davis on June 10. She’ll only be awarded jail credit if she successfully completes the program, said Siskiyou County District Attorney Kirk Andrus.
Fletcher agreed to flash incarceration, which means that the probation department may put her in jail immediately upon the discovery that she violates probation. In addition, a five-year court protective order was issued, naming each of the three victims.
Fletcher’s case received nationwide attention and was documented in publications such as the New York Post and the L.A. Times.
Fletcher was 42 when she was arrested in February 2017 and booked at the Siskiyou County Jail, charged with unlawful sexual intercourse and knowingly dissuading a witness or victim of a crime. She was released on $10,000 bail.
Andrus said his office received a report of the inappropriate conduct in February 2017 and charged Fletcher late that month.
Last week, Judge Davis opened the sentencing hearing citing the things he considered as he was deciding what sentence to impose, said Andrus.
These included the probation officer’s report, which called for a year in jail, as well as reference letters, a psychological report and a letter from Fletcher taking responsibility and apologizing. Davis indicated that a jail sentence was needed, but he felt a year was excessive.
Davis also considered whether there would be a perceived disparity if the victims were girls and the defendant a man. Davis noted that the victims were not coming forward to demand a lengthy prison sentence and that his impression was that they simply wanted this to be over.
“There are many factors at play here, including the public’s perception of young male victims in an unlawful sexual relationship with a much older woman," Andrus said. "I know for a fact that this experience was traumatizing for some of these young men."
Andrus said there were several factors that stretched the case out so long. Fletcher was initially set for arraignment on March 22, 2017, but that was delayed on defense counsel’s request. On April 18 of that year, a preliminary hearing was set for June 21, which was later postponed.
"By August 2017, it became very likely that the case would be resolved and settlement talks waxed and waned over the rest of 2017," Andrus said.
In January of 2018, Fletcher filed a motion to recuse the Siskiyou County DA’s Office, a motion that was litigated over the entirety of 2018, Andrus said. That motion was denied in October of 2018.
In early 2019, Fletcher had emergency surgery, which necessitated a continuance. There was also a failed effort to get a report on the defendant’s mental condition and the appropriateness of probation in early 2019, Andrus said. This was denied, and Fletcher tried to get court funds to hire a doctor for the preparation of a report.
That effort lasted until May of 2019, said Andrus.
In July of 2019, Fletcher pled guilty and since then, she has had ongoing medical issues that prompted continuances, Andrus said, and her attorney had conflicts on at least two occasions.
Since January of 2020, Fletcher has been in counseling, said Andrus. A sentencing hearing for April was scheduled, but the case was then continued multiple times due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"One thing that stands out about this case is how much time it took to resolve the matter," Andrus said. "When the case came to light, it was my intention to litigate the case quickly because of the notoriety and importance of the case. That was quickly derailed when (Fletcher) was released from custody on her own recognizance."
Deputy District Attorney Mike DeArton prosecuted the case. Previously, DeArton had argued that Fletcher should be sentenced to prison, Andrus said. DeArton informed the judge that he was initially going to argue against probation as it did not appear that the defendant had taken responsibility as indicated on the probation report. But in re-reading the defendant’s apology letter, he told the court that it appeared that Fletcher had come to accept responsibility for her conduct.
Fletcher was represented by attorney Erin McNally. At the sentencing, McNally discussed a number of personal issues Fletcher was dealing with in 2015, Andrus said.
This included a drinking problem, her own history as a victim of abuse and the devastating effect of the notoriety of the case. McNally also mentioned that Fletcher lost her job and her livelihood. She asked the court to not impose the 364 days of jail recommended by the Probation Department.
DeArton told the court that the nature of the crime and important considerations of deterrence and punishment made it important for Fletcher to serve the year in jail recommended by probation.
Judge Davis concluded that Fletcher now accepts responsibility and admitted the conduct before trial. This is her first felony, and Fletcher did not have a significant record of criminal conduct. Restitution did not appear to be a major issue, so Davis said he felt his sentence was appropriate.
“We have continuously strived to treat this situation as we would if the victims were female and the perpetrator was male,” said Andrus. "In the end, the consequences for Ms. Fletcher were drastic – especially the loss of her job and her very livelihood – and having a felony conviction. It is our hope that this conclusion of this case allows the victims to continue to move forward in a positive manner and that everybody involved is able to improve their lives as a result."