Wheaton College Settles Football Hazing Case

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Chicago Daily Herald


A former Wheaton College football player who says he was injured in a 2016 hazing that came to light last fall has settled his lawsuit against the college and four of the five former teammates accused of attacking him. College officials announced the confidential settlement involving the former player, Charles Nagy, in an email released Tuesday morning. Nagy's attorney, Terry Ekl, confirmed the "very strongly negotiated" settlement but said he is prohibited from commenting further.

"Consistent with its commitment to ensure that all members of the community are treated with dignity and respect, Wheaton College regrets that this incident occurred and is saddened by any harm suffered by Charles Nagy," the joint statement issued by the college and Nagy reads. "The college continues to proactively review and enhance its policies, training and disciplinary measures to prevent incidents like this from happening in the future. Mr. Nagy commends and supports the college's ongoing efforts."

Nagy was seeking damages in excess of $50,000 and the cost of his filing the lawsuit. The lawsuit, filed in March, alleged that hazings were a common practice in the Wheaton College football program and that coaches and other officials ignored it. Three of Nagy's former teammates — Kyler Kregal from Grand Rapids, Michigan; Noah Spielman from Columbus, Ohio; and Samuel TeBos from Allendale, Michigan — all pleaded guilty earlier this year to misdemeanor battery.

They 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. Another former teammate, James Cooksey of Jacksonville, Florida, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of attempted unlawful restraint and was sentenced to one month of court supervision.

A fifth player, Ben Pettway from Lookout Mountain, Georgia, has declined plea offers and insisted on a trial. All are accused of abducting Nagy from his dorm, putting a pillowcase over his head, binding him with duct tape, repeatedly punching and kicking him, and then leaving him partially nude on a baseball field near Hawthorne Elementary School in Wheaton.

The lawsuit alleged the five played Middle Eastern music, spoke with Middle Eastern accents and told Nagy he would be sexually violated. The complaint alleged hazing was an open secret within the Wheaton College football program that was handed down from class to class while coaches, trainers and officials looked the other way.

The suit also claimed head coach Michael Swider met with the five players the day after the hazing to concoct and coordinate a narrative to blame the victim, claiming Nagy was a voluntary participant and that no one intended to hurt him. The suit included several texts and phone calls from Swider and assistant coaches and teammates urging Nagy to return to campus "to resolve this" after Nagy withdrew from school.

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September 19, 2018


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