Three white football players in Idaho have been charged with sexual assault following an October 2015 incident involving a black teammate with disabilities.
According to legal documents obtained by Complex, the alleged victim, who uses a wheelchair and suffers from mental disabilities, accused his teammates of raping him with a coat hanger and filed a lawsuit against the Dietrich School District. The alleged victim also claims that three of his teammates called him racial slurs before the alleged sexual assault.
A docket for the litigation from the U.S. District Court in Idaho reveals that the plaintiff and his family are seeking $10 million in damages for violation of his civil rights. The Dietrich School District is listed as the lead defendant, along with 11 people who are named and 10 others who are not named, in the docket. The alleged victim's attorneys filed the complaint, and request a trial by jury, on May 13.
The Dietrich School District told Complex in a phone call that it would not comment on "student records or matters that are in litigation" at this time.
The criminal complaint states that the alleged victim, who participated on Dietrich High School's football team, thought one of his teammates was going to give him a hug on the day of the alleged attack. But instead, the teammate allegedly restrained him, while a second teammate shoved a coat hanger into his rectum. The complaint added that a third teammate allegedly kicked the hanger further into the alleged victim's body several times. It states that at least one defendant used slurs, such as the n-word, "chicken eater," and "watermelon," against the alleged victim in the summer of 2015, and that the three teammates forced the alleged victim to sing a racist song.
Additionally, the lawsuit claims the defendants were "willfully and/or negligently indifferent to a pervasive culture of racial hostility," and that the alleged victim was harassed by several of the defendants in a racial, physical, and sexual manner for a sustained period. The high school's football coaches witnessed many of these alleged incidents, but didn't act to protect the alleged victim, according to the suit.
The sexual assault allegedly occurred on October 23, 2015, and while it was not widely reported nationally until Wednesday, the city of Dietrich has reportedly been in turmoil over the news. In November, an anonymous Dietrich resident told local station KMTV 11 about how the alleged incident has impacted the community:
This boy will never be the same from this ... I feel like it needs to be brought to people's attention that this type of thing happens and it's time that Dietrich as a community stops trying to control what does and doesn't happen inside the community and that's what I feel has happened. They should have to go through the legal system with this, this isn't something that the school should handle internally, and this is a criminal act. I feel that these kids should have to go through the court system and whatever is decided is their consequence, they should have to pay for this, they've changed someone's life, forever.
According to the lawsuit, one of the football players at the center of the alleged assault is John R.K. Howard. It states that the 18-year-old instigated the crimes, and has been charged with forcible penetration by use of force or a foreign object.
One of the other football players, 17-year-old Tanner Ward, was arraigned on Monday, for one count of forcible penetration by force or foreign object, according to Idaho-based newspaper Magic Valley. The publication reported that Howard, who is finishing high school in Texas, will have a preliminary hearing on June 10. The third football player involved in the alleged assault is a juvenile, and has not been publicly identified.
Magic Valley reported in April that the alleged victim testified during Ward's preliminary hearing, saying he screamed during the attack, and that he "was pretty upset. I felt really bad. A little bit betrayed and confused at the same time. It was terrible—a pain I’ve never felt."