Three Idaho high school students allegedly raped a teammate with a coat hanger in the locker-room after a football practice.
The incident happened in Dietrich High School on 23 October 2015, and the accused are 18-year-old John R.K. Howard, 17-year-old Tanner Ward, and a third student, age 16, whose name has not yet been released.
The victim, an 18-year-old black student, said that he was tricked by the 16-year-old, who had first asked for a hug and then restrained him and signaled the others to attack. Ward then had thrust a coat hanger into his rectum, followed by Howard kicking the coat hanger five or six times, which caused him ‘rectal injuries’ that required hospital treatment.
After several months of investigation, the state Attorney General’s office has filed sexual assault charges against the three students, with Howard and Ward being charged as adults and the unnamed 16-year-old charged as a juvenile, reports The Washington Post.
In the preliminary hearings held last month, the victim took the stand to testify against his teammates.
‘I screamed. I was pretty upset. I felt really bad. A little bit betrayed and confused at the same time,’ said the victim, reports Magic Valley. ‘It was terrible — a pain I’ve never felt.’
The victim was adopted at age four by a white couple and grew up in the small town of Dietrich which has about 335 residents who are predominantly white.
Earlier this month, the victim’s family has also filed a $10 million lawsuit against Dietrich High School.
According to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Idaho, the alleged rape wasn’t an isolated incident, but the culmination of months of racist abuse from the white students against the victim.
The suit alleges that the victim, who is one of the few black students at Dietrich High School, ‘was taunted and called racist names by other members of the team which names included “Kool-Aid,” “chicken eater,” “watermelon” and [the N-word].’
The victim was subjected to frequent abuse by Howard and his fellow teammates, including ‘aggressive “humping,” jumping on him from the back and simulating anal sex,’ and at times, the group had allegedly given the victim painful wedgies, stripped him of his clothes and taken naked photos of him in the locker room, the suit says.
The civil complaint alleges that Howard was the ringleader of the racist abuse against the victim, and that he had once displayed a Confederate flag and demanded the victim to recite the words to ‘Notorious KKK,’ a racist rap song set to the tune of late American rapper Notorious B.I.G.’s ‘Can’t You See.’
‘Mr. Howard is a large and aggressive male who had been sent to live with his relatives in Idaho due to his inability to keep out of trouble in Texas,’ the lawsuit says.
‘Mr. Howard is a relative of prominent individuals in the community and, at least in part due to his athletic ability and community connections, the Defendants ignored or were deliberately indifferent to the behavior of Mr. Howard which included aggression, taunting and bullying of The Plaintiff and other students in the District.
‘With deliberate indifference, the Defendants did nothing to curb the vicious acts of Mr. Howard who brought with him from Texas a culture of racial hatred towards the Plaintiff.’
In addition to Dietrich High School, the lawsuit also names 11 employees as defendants, and claims that school administrators and coaches did nothing to stop the racial and physical abuse towards the victim, who was reportedly suffering from ‘mental disorders including learning disabilities,’ reports The Washington Post.
The suit also alleges that the football coaches had encouraged other players to fight the victim, and allowed Howard, who is ‘a much larger student,’ to knock him unconscious while the other students shouted ‘catcalls, taunts and racial epithets.’
At the preliminary hearing, Ward’s attorney argued that the victim’s testimony conflicted with that of another witness, but Judge Mark Ingram allowed the case to continue, reports Magic Valley.
Ward’s trial is scheduled to begin on 26 September, while Howard, who is finishing high school in Texas, has his preliminary hearing set for 10 June. It is not known if either has entered a plea.
If found guilty of their charge of ‘forcible penetration by use of force or a foreign object,’ the two teenagers could face life in prison under the Idaho’s law.
H/t: The Washington Post