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Dateline: NEWARK, Ohio
Two senior members of Heath High School's basketball team were charged with bullying-related crimes Wednesday.
Evan Barrett, 18, of 698 Radian Dr. in Heath, was charged with a delinquency count of abduction, a third-degree felony. The incidents occurred while he was minor, authorities said.
Jacob Geller, 17, of 1271 Bluejacket Lane in Heath, was charged with a delinquency count of complicity to assault, a first-degree misdemeanor, and a delinquency count of unlawful restraint, a third-degree misdemeanor.
Licking County Prosecutor Ken Oswalt wrote in a news release that the "behavior underlying these charges includes allegations that (Barrett) would insert or attempt to insert his fingers into another's rectum -- through clothing" while the victims were restrained.
Heath Superintendent Trevor Thomas said a parent reported the incident to Heath basketball coach Devin Fulk on Dec. 30. Thomas called Heath police, as well as Licking County child protective services.
According to the complaint, Barrett "participated in physically taking several of his peers to the ground and thereafter, either on his own or in concert with one or more others, held them down so that he could engage in assaultive behavior towards them."
Barrett, who turned 18 on Nov. 30, also was charged yesterday with an unrelated adult count of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, a first-degree misdemeanor, alleging that he inserted a finger into the vagina of a 15-year-old girl on Dec. 1.
Geller, according to the criminal complaint, took "one of his peers to the ground and/or having prevented them from being able to get up off of the floor," leading to the second complicity-to-assault charge, in which the complaint says Geller held a victim while Barrett assaulted him.
The initial Heath police report, filed Dec. 31 against Barrett alone, listed the offense as rape and referred to four victims. Heath Police Sgt. Craig Black said yesterday that Barrett assaulted "more than three and less than six" victims between June 1 and Nov. 30.
He was immediately suspended from the basketball team.
"It was definitely more than hazing and more than bullying," said Black, who added that he did not know what Barrett's motives might have been.
"The differences in the charges between the two alleged delinquent children (felony versus misdemeanors) are the result of all parties -- parents of victims, law enforcement and my staff -- recognizing that there were significant differences between the conduct of the two offenders -- both in seriousness of the acts committed, as well as in the frequency of occurrences of the conduct engaged in," Oswalt said in his release.
Geller became a suspect later in the investigation, and his name was not turned over to school officials until late in the basketball season. He was one of the team's best players, earning honorable mention all-district honors.
Barrett and Geller are scheduled for arraignment before Juvenile Court Judge Robert Hoover on April 9. Calls to the attorneys for both were not returned.