Three Idaho high school football players have been charged in the October 2015 sexual assault of a teammate.
The players, all of whom are white, are accused of sexually assaulting a black teammate with a coat hanger while others participated or watched. The victim, who was not identified, has “mental disorders including learning disabilities,” according to court documents.
The Huffington Post reports that ex-Dietrich High School students John R.K. Howard and Tanner Ward were formally charged with felony forcible penetration by a foreign object by the state attorney general. They could face a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted. A 16-year-old was charged with similar crimes, but in juvenile court.
According to the Washington Post, the victim was restrained after a teammate pretended to offer him a hug. That’s when another teammate allegedly assaulted the victim with the coat hanger. Howard reportedly kicked the hanger several times.
The assault caused injuries that required medical treatment, according to authorities.
The victim’s family filed a $10 million lawsuit against the school, claiming the sexual abuse was the culmination of months of racist attacks. The victim, one of few black students at his high school, was adopted by a white family at age 4.
Per the Washington Post:
“The victim “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 alleges.
The civil complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Idaho also claims that one of the students charged with sexual assault displayed a Confederate flag and demanded the victim recite a racist song titled “Notorious KKK.””
The suit also claims that school administrators and coaches failed to intervene against the abuse suffered by the victim, and names 11 school employees as defendants.
The suit portrays Howard, “a large and aggressive male,” as the ringleader of the abuse.
“Mr. Howard is a relative of prominent individuals in the community and, at least in part due to his athletic ability and community connections, the Defendants ignored or were deliberately indifferent to the behavior of Mr. Howard which included aggression, taunting and bullying of The Plaintiff and other students in the District.“