Everything was in place to prosecute Catherine Cates — except a solid case.
Attorneys spent all morning picking a jury to hear the case against Cates, 30, accused of having sex with her neighbor, a 13-year-old boy. The boy and his mother were waiting in the wings to see whether she would be convicted. Cates was brought into court in handcuffs.
But before the judge arrived, a witness came forward to disclose new information behind closed doors.
Within the first few minutes of the trial, the case was dropped.
Cates was caught breathless and began to cry, said her defense attorney John Walsh.
She had been charged with four counts of child rape, a first-degree felony, and sexual abuse of a child, a second-degree felony. Behind closed doors, one of Cates' female roommates arrived at court with new details about her previous testimony.
The roommate previously said that she had walked in on the woman and the boy having sex in her Millcreek home. But on Monday afternoon, she changed her story.
"She never walked in," Walsh said. "She never believed or heard that they were having sex."
Defense attorneys speculated that the whole case was nothing more than a revenge plot — the boy's mother wanting to get back at Cates after a fight they had. During a preliminary hearing, when the boy stumbled over dates and couldn't describe details about Cates' body. The roommate's changed testimony was apparently the final nail in the coffin.
Walsh decried the idea that Cates had to suffer indignity and imprisonment for accusations so quickly dropped.
"To go from grave consequences to nothing, it's alarming enough," he said.
Since the case was dismissed after a jury had been selected, the prosecution cannot bring the same charges against Cates in the future, even if new evidence or witnesses come forward.