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Sheriff to Investigate HS Basketball Hazing Allegations

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Copyright 2016 Dayton Newspapers, Inc.

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Tri-Village boys basketball coach Josh Sagester says players have been punished.

A criminal investigation into hazing involving the Tri-Village High School boys basketball team has led to discipline against some students and could lead to misdemeanor charges.

Darke County Sheriff 's Chief Deputy Mark Whittaker said Wednesday that the evidence gathered since his office was notified Dec. 15 would support misdemeanor hazing charges, but not sexual assault or other felony crimes.

"I've seen all kinds of rumors that there was rape or some sort of sexual penetration, but there has been no evidence of that reported by any of the victims as of right now," Whittaker said, adding that his office has pursued those rumors. "As much as I want to share exactly what happened in the locker room (to address rumors), there are some things that would be embarrassing to the juvenile victims, so I'm not comfortable releasing details."

Tri-Village schools Superintendent Josh Sagester, who is also the varsity basketball coach, said disciplinary action has been taken against some students. He wouldn't detail whether that meant sports suspension, school suspension or something else, citing "student privacy and confidentiality."

"The goal of the district is to make sure this alleged incident never happens again," Sagester said. "We want to make sure the students get educational training, and we want to bring in some type of speaker who has experience with this issue."

Asked whether his dual role as coach and superintendent should preclude him from continuing to deal with sheriff's officials, Sag-ester said the school district's own investigation was led by the high school principal, with input from the athletic director.

Whittaker said the sheriff's office has interviewed about a dozen people and believes Tri-Village school officials responded as soon as they learned of the incidents. He said the schools had already started their own investigation and disciplinary process by the time the sheriff's office learned of the issue, adding that school officials have cooperated in the probe.

"I have no evidence that staff had knowledge of, or was condoning or participating in any of the hazing," he said. "This is student-focused conduct."

Some residents were angry that the school board did not publicly address the issue at its board meeting Monday night.

Hazing is a fourth-degree misdemeanor, which has a maximum of 30 days in jail. Whittaker said the reason hazing charges are likely, rather than charges of a sexual nature, is because of Ohio law's definition of sexual contact.

"The prosecutor has to prove that the touching of another's private area ... you have to also prove the element of sexual gratification," he said. "And that is not what was going on in that locker room."

Whittaker said he hopes to present the case to Darke County Prosecutor R. Kelly Ormsby on Thursday. The Early Bird, a Darke County news outlet, quoted Ormsby as saying he wouldn't make a decision on charges until he had seen the sheriff's report and talked to the victims and their families.

Tri-Village has been one of the region's most successful small-school basketball programs, reaching the Division IV state semifinals in 2014 and winning the state title in 2015. They started this season 3-0, then lost to struggling Newton on Friday, as multiple players were not in the lineup.

A criminal investigation into hazing involving the Tri-Village High School boys basketball team has led to discipline against some students and could lead to misdemeanor charges. Darke County Sheriff 's Chief Deputy Mark Whittaker said Wednesday that the evidence gathered since his office was notified Dec. 15 would support misdemeanor hazing charges, but not sexual assault or other felony crimes.

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December 22, 2016
 
 
 

 

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