Back in May, three white high school football players in Idaho were charged with sexual assault after they abused their black mentally disabled teammate with a coat hanger in October 2015. Now, at least one of the attackers won't face any jail time.
One of the bullies, 19-year-old John R.K. Howard, pled guilty last week to a felony count of injury to a child. That's a lesser charge than he originally faced, forcible sexual penetration by a foreign object, which could've landed Howard in prison for life. Now though, Howard will avoid any prison or jail time at all, and could even have his conviction dismissed if he completes his two- to three-year probation without committing any new crimes or violations, according to MagicValley.com.
Before that, another one of the bullies, 17-year-old Tanner Ward, had his adult felony charges dismissed as a result of a plea deal, though he still faced at least one juvenile charge, Magic Valley reported in September. The third teen was also charged as a juvenile, so his case has been completely sealed.
Howard will be ordered to serve 300 community service hours in addition to his two to three years of probation. If Howard violates his probation, the maximum punishment a judge could order is 10 years in prison along with a fine of up to $50,000.
Deputy Attorney General Casey Hemmer told District Judge Randy Stoker that Howard's actions were "egregious" and caused "a lot of suffering" for the victim." Nonetheless, Hemmer said it was neither a sex crime nor a hate crime, which is why they lowered the charges.
According to the Daily Kos, uncensored reports from the school’s internal investigation found that Ward abused the victim with a black plastic hanger. According to the reports, Howard, who has a history of dry humping other players, likely "kicked the hanger multiple times, either embedding it into the rectum of (victim), or embedding it further."
Hemmer doesn't consider the incident to be racially motivated. While "there are things that we found going around that school and that locker room involving a lot of the parties here that had racial undertones," Hemmer told the judge, "It’s not our belief that this was a racially motivated crime."
Hemmer continued, "This was more of a vulnerable-victim motivated crime. I think it probably would have happened to anybody that was in the same kind of circumstances and mental state as the victim here."
That's despite the fact that the victim, who uses a wheelchair and suffers from mental disabilities, alleged that his attackers used racist language against him like the N-word, "chicken eater," "Kool-Aid," and "watermelon," and even forced him to learn a Ku Klux Klan song while holding a Confederate flag.
The victim's $10 million civil lawsuit is still going through the U.S. District Court, according to Magic Valley. The lawsuit claims that the school district, administrators, and football coaches were either aware or should have been aware of the abuse that the victim had to endure. The locker room assault with the hanger, the lawsuit claims, was just the climax of months of "severe and pervasive harassment, racial discrimination, mental and physical assault, and battery."