A former American Olympian pleaded guilty Wednesday to sexually abusing and grooming his teenage student until she felt pressured to enter into an illegal relationship with him.
Rich Fellers, 63, pleaded guilty to interstate travel to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor July 11 following his 2021 arrest on allegations that he sexually abused his then 17-year-old student Maggie Kehring, The Chronicle Of The Horse reported. Fellers, a former Olympic equestrian show jumper, maintained his innocence in the two years following his arrest, only to plead guilty to the allegations Tuesday.
His decision to plead guilty was part of a deal reached between Fellers and state and federal attorneys that would allow the former Olympian to serve out his sentence in a medium-security federal prison rather than the state-run penitentiary in Oregon, the outlet reported. Federal charges were added to the state charges in order to move his case to a federal court.
Rich Fellers, 63, is now expected to be sentenced to four years in prison. https://t.co/94iKCf3luV
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) July 13, 2023
Kehring told Bloomberg in a 2022 interview that she had looked upon Fellers as a father figure, even moving into an apartment near his barn and training center at 15 years old. There, Kehring would train daily and eat meals with Fellers’ family, while traveling to horse shows as a rising star on the U.S. junior circuit.
In December 2019, Kehring told the outlet she received a call from Fellers which ultimately changed their relationship forever. “You’re not a little girl anymore, Maggie,” she cited him as saying. “I’m crazy about you.”
Kehring stated that the conversation left her shocked and fearful as she had never even had a boyfriend. “I knew I couldn’t leave that barn. He was supposed to be the one to help me get to the Olympics,” she told Bloomberg.
After that, Kehring claimed Fellers changed their travel itineraries, allowing them to spend more time together and would sit next to her, even during dinners with his wife and children, and place his hand on her thigh. Kehring admitted to having sex with Fellers just after her 17th birthday. In June 2020, however, Fellers’ wife discovered their illicit relationship, and walked in on them as they were staying at an Airbnb together, Bloomberg reported.
“I cried nonstop that whole week,” Kehring told the outlet.
Kehring reportedly spent the next six months coming to terms with all that had transpired in her relationship with Fellers, realizing that despite saying “no” several times, she had been coerced into a sexual relationship with her trainer and mentor. The fallout from her accusations, however, has left Kehring feeling ostracized from the equestrian community. (RELATED: Inspector Report Found Hundreds Of Chicago Teachers Allegedly Sexually Groomed, Raped Students)
“For all the horrible people in the equestrian community that said terrible things about Maggie, I think there can be no clearer vindication for what she’s been through [than this],” Russell Prince, Kehring’s lawyer, stated of Fellers’ guilty plea, according to The Chronicle Of The Horse. “There’s quite a few people who owe Maggie Kehring and the Kehring family some heartfelt apologies.”
In addition to his guilty plea of interstate travel to engage in illicit sex with a minor, Fellers has pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree sexual abuse – the sentencing of which is slated for October. Fellers has agreed to serve 30 months in prison on the Washington County charges concurrently with his four-year prison sentence on federal charges, according to KOIN News.