A white high school football player from Idaho who was charged with sexually assaulting a mentally-disabled black teammate in 2015, had the sex crime charges dropped after pleading guilty to a lesser charge.
According to the Times-News, 19-year-old John R.K. Howard of Keller, Texas, pleaded guilty to a felony count of injury to a child and will be receive up to 3 years of probation and up to 300 hours of community service. The sentencing will be final in February.
Th plea deal also states that Howard will be allowed to maintain his innocence while acknowledging that the evidence was strong enough to convict him.
From The Washington Post:
In May, the Idaho attorney general’s office filed sexual assault charges against Howard and two of his teammates at Dietrich High School, alleging that they held the victim down, shoved a coat hanger into his rectum and then kicked the hanger several times. The two other students have been charged in juvenile court.
“It’s absolutely preposterous that this kid should walk away with apparently no punishment whatsoever,” the victim’s family attorney R. Keith Roark said. “Everyone is more concerned with these young sociopaths than the victim of their violence.”
Both the prosecution and defense are staying tight-lipped, but the family’s lawsuit against the school says that the victim had suffered racist bullying and abuse for an extended period of time before the incident.
The student “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 suit said. The victim and his adopted siblings are the only black people in Dietrich, a rural town of 330 in southern Idaho.
Prosecutors say Howard “kicked” a coat hanger into the victim’s rectum, but according Deputy State Attorney General Casey Hemmer, those actions didn’t constitute a sex crime, thus the plea deal.
“Based on continuing investigation throughout this case — interviewing of witnesses, speaking with the victim and getting a better picture of what happened in this case — the state believes this is the appropriate charge,” Hemmer said according to the Times-News.
“It was egregious behavior, it caused this victim a lot of suffering, but it is not, in my view, a sex crime, which is why the state has amended this charge. We don’t believe it’s appropriate for Mr. Howard to suffer the consequences of a sex offender, but he still needs to be held accountable.”
Featured image via Tarrant County, Texas