Fisher, 52, pleaded not guilty to 14 counts of possession of child pornography during Tuesday’s court hearing before Thurston County Superior Court Judge Gary Tabor. Tabor allowed Fisher’s release on his own recognizance, meaning Fisher does not have to post bail with the court.
The courtroom was filled with Fisher’s supporters, who burst into applause after Tabor allowed Fisher to have contact with children, said his attorney, Paul Strophy. Tabor made the decision after receiving 11 affidavits from area residents who opposed such a pretrial restriction.
“A lot of these children are anxiously awaiting the opportunity to continue their instruction from Troy,” Strophy said.
He said he has dozens of similar affidavits from Fisher’s supporters that he has yet to file with the court. Fisher now can continue to make a living as he prepares for his trial, Strophy said. Minors’ parents or guardians must submit a sworn affidavit to the court giving permission.
In one of the affidavits submitted Tuesday, parents John and Kammy Minor state that they want their 14-year-old daughter to continue to receive voice instruction from Fisher. It reads, in part: “In the three-plus years that (their daughter) has studied under Troy in a variety of conditions, there has never been a hint of impropriety. In fact, working with Troy is exactly the opposite of that. He is a professional, and while a caring and committed teacher, he never is overly ‘personal’ with her … We do not believe that Troy is a danger to our daughter, or to any other child.”
Another affidavit, filed by attorney Melissa Denton, reads: “I think it is very telling that not one person who knows Troy has said one thing against him. No one has implied or stated that he has done anything to harm any child. Troy has been an incredibly important part of music and growing up healthy for 20-plus years in Olympia. The people who are supporting Troy are of extremely high caliber and no one supports him more than his current and past students.”
The Olympia Police Department began its investigation of Fisher in July, after police searched Fisher’s home computer in an effort to find him after he had been reported missing.
At the time, Fisher was working for the Capital Playhouse, which puts on plays involving children and teens and runs children’s theater and musical workshops.
According to court papers, “in an attempt to locate Fisher, the police analyzed Fisher’s phone and computer because Fisher had recently fired an employee and there was a report of angry emails being sent to Fisher.”
Police initially did not have a warrant to seize and search Fisher’s computer, Strophy said Tuesday.
Fisher was found unharmed on Olympia’s west side about 1:45 a.m. July 25, several days after he had been reported missing. Fisher called 911 from a pay phone. He was hospitalized and told police he had no memory of the previous two days.
According to court papers:
After Fisher was found, Detective Paul Evers contacted Detective Rebecca Fayette, who is trained in computer forensics and was analyzing Fisher’s computer. Evers asked when Fisher’s computer could be returned to him. She said she needed time to reassemble it, as the hard drive had been removed.
Fayette contacted Evers a short time later to report that she’d seen what later were determined to be depictions of boys between 10 and 13 years old engaged in sexually explicit conduct on Fisher’s computer.
Police then obtained a search warrant and found suspected images of child pornography. They obtained a search warrant for Fisher’s work computer at the Playhouse and found additional images of suspected child pornography.
Fisher has no prior criminal history. Strophy said Tuesday that he has requested a hearing Feb. 25 to suppress all of the evidence that has been seized from Fisher’s computer as a result of the warrantless search.
“Our position is the search of the computer in any form was completely unconstitutional and without a warrant,” Strophy said. The subsequent evidence from Fisher’s work computer should also be suppressed, he said, under “the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine.”
Pierce County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Scott Peters, who is prosecuting Fisher’s case, declined to comment on whether the evidence should be suppressed.
“We’ll respond, and we’ll let a judge decide,” he said.
Peters is prosecuting Fisher’s case because the Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has recused itself. Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney Jon Tunheim’s wife is on the board of the Playhouse, and his children have been involved in Playhouse productions.