PRINCETON — An Ohio, Ill., woman was acquitted of aggravated sexual abuse charges in Bureau County Circuit Court on Thursday, but still faces charges for the same alleged crime in Lee County.
After a four-day trial, jurors unanimously found Melinda Ringenberg, 39, innocent of the charge.
The charge stemmed from an alleged sexual relationship with a 15-year-old boy between Sept. 16 and Oct. 18, 2015. Ringenberg was an Ohio school board member and cheerleading coach at the time the relationship was alleged to have occurred.
In his closing arguments, Bureau County State’s Attorney Geno Caffarini said the boy admitted to his mother and stepfather to having sex with the woman, and that in a subsequent wire-tap conversation, Ringenberg admitted to being intimate with the boy on two occasions.
Defense attorney Joe Navarro argued Ringenberg said she admitted to two encounters after being pressured by the boy’s family. Ringenberg maintains the admission was a deal she cut with the family to avoid police involvement.
Had she been found guilty, Ringenberg could have faced 3-7 years in prison, or probation.
“I respect the jury’s verdict, but I am convinced, and everyone involved in the investigation believes evidence was sufficient for a conviction,” Caffarini said. “That’s why she was charged. The defendant admitted to having sex with him in a taped conversation.”
Navarro, who is also representing Ringenberg in the Lee County case, said his next step is to meet with the prosecutor for that case.
“Obviously, Melinda and her whole family are thankful to the jury and their deliberations,” Navarro said. “It’s a very unfortunate situation for everyone, but it’s a great relief to Melinda and her family.”
Kim Shute can be reached at (815) 879-5200 Ext. 13 or email@example.com Follow her on Twitter at NT_Princeton2