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Chicago Daily Herald
The fourth of five former Wheaton College football players facing felony charges in a 2016 hazing scandal has pleaded guilty to lesser misdemeanor charges. James Cooksey, 23, of Jacksonville, Florida, pleaded guilty Monday to a misdemeanor count of attempted unlawful restraint and was sentenced to one month of court supervision. He also must testify truthfully in any future proceedings in the case.
A fifth man, Benjamin Pettway, is expected to stand trial early next year. The plea deal and sentence is different from the one previously agreed to by co-defendants Noah Spielman, Kyler Kregel and Samuel TeBos. Those men all pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery and were sentenced to one year of conditional discharge requiring them to each pay a $250 anti-crime fee and complete 100 hours of public service — including 25 hours of speaking to youths about the dangers of hazing.
In September, a grand jury approved a nine-count indictment against Cooksey and his four teammates, charging them with aggravated battery, mob action and unlawful restraint in the hazing of then-teammate Charles Nagy. On Monday, prosecutors dropped the nine felony charges against Cooksey and added the new attempted unlawful restraint charge.
Cooksey, along with TeBos, of Allendale, Michigan; Spielman, of Columbus, Ohio; Pettway, of Lookout Mountain, Georgia; and Kregel, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, were accused of abducting Nagy, now 21, from his dorm on March 19, 2016. Prosecutors said the men put a pillowcase over Nagy's head and tied his arms and legs with duct tape before he was placed in a pickup truck and driven to a baseball field near Hawthorne Elementary School in Wheaton.
Prosecutors said the defendants are accused of repeatedly punching and kicking Nagy, kicking dirt on him and then leaving him partially nude on the field. Cooksey thanked Judge Brian Telander for approving the deal and allowing him to follow his dream of serving in the military. Cooksey was attending Wheaton College on a four-year ROTC scholarship at the time of the case.
The scholarship was suspended for his senior year after the charges were announced. His attorney, Michael Fleming, said Cooksey now plans to apply for a waiver from the Army to allow him to "fulfill his commitment to serve." Assistant State's Attorney Mike Pawl said Cooksey's determination to serve in the military was considered in the crafting of the plea agreement and sentencing.
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