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Carmel hazing update: A victim, er, perpetrator speaks

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A figure in one of the most notorious cases of school sports hazing in recent memory — and his family — were counseled by their attorneys to stay silent in the face of accusations of possible sexual crimes, intense media coverage and a backlash from some locals. After breaking their silence, the figure and his family proved their attorney provided wise counsel.

Scott Laskowski was one of four Carmel (Ind.) High School basketball players (now all graduated) who faced criminal charges following two separate hazing incidents, one on a team bus on the way back from a game, and one in the team locker room. Laskowski pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge related to the locker room incident, though he was suspended from the team and expelled from classes. Laskowski is the son of former Indiana University basketball player and announcer John Laskowski, making him, by accident of birth, the most prominent of the four accused. (Two others have pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in the locker room incident, while other charges have been dropped, and two players — not including Laskowski — are still going through the court system over the bus incident.)

I’ll save you the slog through a six-page story on The Indianapolis Star’s website to get to the meat (on page six):

When the Laskowskis finally decided to speak, they lashed out at the media and the school and the accuser. They said their son is the real victim. The school took one student’s word against their son’s. His accuser — whose family plans a $2.25 million lawsuit against the school district — is in it for the money. And the media excess was motivated by greed.

My response: boo fucking hoo.

I’ll give the Laskowskis that having stalkers (including one person arrested for doing so) posting “a sex offender lives here” signs on their lawn and following them through the streets of Carmel was way over the top, and I don’t blame the family for moving 65 miles south to Bloomington to get away from it.

But, for Christ’s sake, when you have a victim who is reported to have had various objects shoved up his anus, you don’t go around proclaiming yourself or your golden boy as “the real victim.” There is no way to come out of that unscathed.

The story dwells on all the information that wasn’t released because of laws governing school privacy and grand-jury testimony. (It’s nice to see that the Laskowskis and those sympathetic with the victim can agree on one thing — that the school totally mishandled the situation.) But it doesn’t shed a lot of light on what Laskowski did or saw.

His guilty plea came for, as he put it, holding the ankles of a victim attacked in the locker room, and he denies doing anything on the bus. OK, we’ll take him at his word. So what did Laskowski see on the infamous bus ride? Did he see something happen? Are the others guilty? Is the victim making this up? In six pages, either Scott Laskowski wasn’t asked, or the interview was conditioned on the reporter not asking. Or, given the Laskowski family’s self-absorption, at least as it came across in the story, nobody knows or cares.

Written by rkcookjr

January 4, 2011 at 12:25 am

Parent goes to youth basketball game, gets stabby

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One of the many reasons I advocate against laws allowing guns at youth sports events is the powder-keg of emotions in the stands. And what can set it off is not necessarily anything going on in the game. A youth sports event can be a wondrous event to bring families together in harmony — or a horrible excuse for broken families to get together to settle their differences.

From The Indianapolis Star:

MIDDLETOWN, Ind. — Police say a man stabbed his wife’s ex-husband during a fight that broke out during a youth basketball game at a Central Indiana school. Henry County Sheriff Butch Baker says 34-year-old Eric Allred, Muncie, suffered a non-life-threatening stab wound to his torso and was taken to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.

Baker tells The [Muncie] Star Press that Allred and 27-year-old Christopher Ellis, Middletown, started arguing in the bleachers during Saturday’s game at Shenandoah Elementary School. Baker says the fight then moved into a restroom, where Ellis attacked Allred with a knife.

The [Anderson, Ind.] Herald Bulletin reports Allred is the father of a child who was playing.

Ellis was being held in the Henry County Jail on preliminary aggravated battery charges.

OK, let me rephrase that — people shouldn’t be bringing any weapons to a kids game. At least, though, a knife can do limited damage compared to a gun. And, with no guns allowed, a trigger-happy vigilante can’t decide to step in the middle of a, shall we say, dicey domestic situation.

Written by rkcookjr

November 8, 2010 at 10:22 pm

Mother uses stun gun to zap son’s football coach

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From the Times-Union in Jacksonville, Fla:

A Pop Warner football coach was zapped with a stun gun Tuesday night during an argument with a parent at Sandalwood High School, Jacksonville police said.

Now 43-year-old Roxine Cornela Cobb of the 700 block of Oaks Plantation Drive in Arlington has been arrested on charges of battery and discharging a weapon on school grounds, according to the police report.

Robert Medley II told police he had argued with the woman and her son who plays on his football team Monday night. The confrontation resumed about 6:15 p.m. the next day when the woman walked up to Medley and zapped him in the chest with the stun gun, the arrest report said.

Medley, 41, said he slapped the stun gun out of her hand and the argument ended as police arrived. Cobb told police she didn’t think she actually zapped him.

Two witnesses confirmed the coach’s account, police said.

Pressed for further comment about how he felt about this turn of events, the coach said: “Shocked.”

Written by rkcookjr

October 15, 2010 at 4:39 pm

Steroids: Making youth baseball coaches douchier

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Benjamin Alexander-Bloch of the New Orleans Times-Picayune is working on his own “Game Of Shadows,” like those San Francisco Chronicle reporters who blew the lid off of steroids and Barry Bonds. Except that the steroid scandal Alexander-Bloch uncovered is a little bit more, shall we say, under the radar.

A youth baseball coach who beat up a rival coach after a crucial Slidell [La.] Bantam Baseball Association game in 2008 had off-the-chart levels of animal steroids in his system after his sentencing for battery, according to test results recently obtained by The Times-Picayune.

Wait a minute — it makes some sense that you might take steroids to play baseball, but to coach it?

According to Alexander-Bloch’s story, the judge who gave Jason Chighizola, 34, a 30-day jail sentence for beating up a rival coach in full view of young players and parents happened to notice that Chighizola seemed a bit unusually chiseled, and ordered him regularly tested for substance abuse. This order came Sept. 1, 2009, or more than a year after Chighizola, who coached the 8-year-old Yankees, beat up Robert Johnson, 35, of the 8-year-old Red Sox following a game the Yankees lost, putting the Red Sox in first place. And you know ESPN Slidell was covering that series way more than any other more interesting baseball. Damn Yankees-Red Sox bias.

It appears Chighizola, um, passed his test more than any test he may have ever taken.

Chighizola tested positive for trenbolone metabolite, which is used by veterinarians on livestock to increase muscle growth and appetite, the records show. He also tested positive for stanozolol metabolite, which is often used along with other anabolic steroids and is known for increasing strength while not leading to excess weight gain.

The results were conducted by a California company, Redwood Toxicology Laboratory, and measured the balance between Chighizola’s testosterone and epitestosterone. If the ratio of testosterone in a person’s system is greater than six times the amount of epitestosterone, then it generally means that there are steroids in the person’s system.

In Chighizola’s case, that ratio equaled 86, the records show.

While Chighizola’s attorney says he has tested negative ever since, the coach — who allegedly was reacting to a smart-ass comment by Johnson when he pounded the shit out of him — can’t set foot on a field in Slidell ever again. It could have been worse: if anyone had known the amount of trenbolone metabolite Chighizola had in him, he might have been sentenced to become a delicious steak.

Written by rkcookjr

August 7, 2010 at 11:05 pm

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Carmel hazing update: indictments handed down, of players and society

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Here’s the tally, presented May 17, from the long-simmering hazing investigations involving four senior basketball players at Carmel (Ind.) High School:

* Oscar Faludon — one count battery, Class A misdemeanor, two counts criminal recklessness, Class B misdemeanor

* Scott Laskowski — three counts criminal recklessness, Class B misdemeanor

Both indicted in relation to locker room incidents at Carmel High. They will be tried in their home of Hamilton County (north suburban Indianapolis).

* Brandon Hoge — one count battery, Class A misdemeanor, one count criminal recklessness, Class B misdemeanor, one count battery, Class B misdemeanor

* Robert Kitzinger — one count battery, class A misdemeanor, one count criminal recklessness, Class B misdemeanor, one count battery, Class B misdemeanor

Both indicted in relation to an incident on a team bus driving back from Terre Haute. They will be tried in Hendricks County (west suburban Indianapolis), where the criminal conduct is alleged to have taken place.

I’ll have more on this later. I’m watching the news conference being streamed on Fox59.com.

A quick take:

The grand jury, which heard evidence from at least 57 witnesses, did not come back with any sex crimes or felonies, as alleged in the first incident reports. Hamilton County Prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp says the school cooperated fully and is putting a peer-to-peer program in place to help ensure these incidents don’t happen, or if they do, they don’t come out a month after the fact, as happened in the basketball case. However, she did say the school’s initial discussion of the hazing not rising to the level of criminal activity was a result of administrators not having enough information at the time. The grand jury looked at evidence related to three coaches who were supervising, or should have been supervising, at the time of the incidents, but decided no charges should be brought against them.

Leerkamp isn’t divulging details on the indictment, which is sealed because it came from a grand jury. However, she’s very publicly indicting the culture that led to the alleged incidents. In many cases, she said, students interviewed proffered the view that the victims brought it on themselves.

“How does a victim ask to be violated?” Leerkamp said. “That attitude was out there” that a victim indeed does.

Will the players get convicted? They’ve retained Jim Voyles, probably the best defense lawyer in the Indianapolis area. If the East Coast lawyers Mike Tyson’s team hired let Voyles, as a hometown assistant, try the case in the Indianapolis court instead of just push paper, Tyson would have never seen a day in jail, because he never would have been convicted of rape.

The prosecution also will have to deal with, by its own admission, that the kids got the attitude that victims deserve their fate from the adults around them. “I have jurors who have said a women asked to be raped, because of what she was wearing, and that a child asked to be molested, because they crawled on the lap” of an adult who had previously violated them, Leerkamp said.

How can athletes get away with hazing? Because adults allow them to.

“That’s at the core of what happened at Carmel High School, and the core of what we have to deal with,” Leerkamp said.

Carmel hazing update: Making 'appropriate behavior' more clear

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On March 8, Carmel Clay (Ind.) Schools superintendent Jeff Swensson, in a prepared statement he read at a school board meeting, said a review of student handbooks is in order following hazing allegations that ended getting four Carmel High seniors tossed off the basketball team, at least one victim injured enough to require a hospital trip, and police and media crawling all over the school.

It’s interesting Swensson said that. Because in a Feb. 24 news conference, Swensson said the district was clear in the student handbook that “inappropriate behavior” already was not tolerated. From that event, where Swensson read another prepared statement with the cadence and verve of someone who rehearsed every verbal tic for the benefit of lawyers:

“We are clear in advance about our expectations for appropriate behavior. [The] student handbook sets forth standard for that appropriate behavior.”

At the time, the only issue was three senior players — Scott Laskowski, Robert Kitzinger and Brandon Hoge — “bullying” two freshmen Jan. 22 on the back of a bus on a 100-mile trip back from a game in Terre Haute. The school had not yet suspended Oscar Faludon for his alleged attack in a locker room. Both cases are being investigated by Carmel police, with possible charges including criminal deviate conduct — a felony and a crime that puts you on the lifetime sex offender registry.

Also, at that point the story seemed somewhat in control for Carmel schools, until local media pounded on police to release their reports, which even heavily redacted showed possible cases of shocking brutality, at least shocking if you think of suburban student-athletes as future leaders of America, rather than future prison roomies.

That police investigation is still ongoing, but the school board has acknowledged it’s getting intense pressure from many in the community to get this settled, to have the alleged offenders shot on sight (or at least sufficiently punished), and to figure out how they’re going to guarantee that their kids can go to school and play sports without worrying about some power-mad or otherwise disturbed teammate committing acts of violence against them.

As for that Carmel student handbook, WTHR-TV in Indianapolis, the local NBC affiliate, notes that it barely mentions hazing:

The current rules appear to fall far short of that goal. Carmel High School’s student handbook clearly prohibits bullying, but says nothing of hazing. Its handbook for athletes devotes two-and-a-half pages to the criteria for athletic awards.

But hazing? There’s a single line prohibiting horseplay, roughhousing, hazing and initiations – beneath the warnings to wear proper clothing and drink plenty of water.

Of course, merely adding more verbiage to the student handbook isn’t going to stop hazing, any more than a protective order prevents someone’s dangerous boyfriend from stopping over. Swensson also discussed other means of fighting hazing, such as reviewing supervision practices. In the bus incident, the seniors weren’t supposed to be on that bus, and the coaches on the bus, at most, walked to the back of the bus and told everyone to be quiet.

Swensson also said he was “deeply troubled” by the allegations. As well he should be. In that Feb. 24 news conference, Swensson spent much more time talking about how much the Carmel schools punished “inappropriate” behavior and were clear in their desire for “appropriate” behavior, using both words so much you could have made an inappropriate, or appropriate, drinking game out of them.

However, it would be unfair to pick on Swensson, and Carmel, speaking of each as if its reaction were some outrageously unique act. The most depressing part of the whole saga is that it has happened at other schools (even Carmel, once before), it probably is happening at other schools right now, and it certainly will happen at other schools later.

States — looking at college fraternities and sororities — have passed anti-hazing legislation, with Utah a notable case of a state considering such a law now. While Carmel is a problem, it is not the problem. The problem is that somehow, someway, students get a tacit OK from parents, coaches and administrators that hazing is no big deal. And that if something happens to make it a big deal, too many people in the community argue that everyone else is making too big a deal out of it.

Carmel hazing case blows up on Senior Day

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Tonight (Feb. 26) was supposed to be a celebration for the Carmel (Ind.) High School basketball team, the seniors in particular, what with it being the final regular-season home game, and designated Senior Day. One problem: four out of the five seniors aren’t there because they are suspended as police investigate whether they committed any sexually related crimes related to hazing.

I’ve been updating the situation at my old high school on my original post, but events are moving so quickly, I figured I’d better start another one so the Feb. 25 post didn’t grow to 10,000 words. Only a few hours before Senior Day activities were set to tip off, the Carmel Police Department, with the local TV news stations breathing down its neck, released its second police report related to misdeeds that might involve athletes.

That report is investigating possible criminal deviate conduct, sexual battery with threat of force and criminal confinement related to a Jan. 8 attack in a Carmel locker room. What exactly is alleged isn’t known — the report is heavily redacted. But it has to be pretty serious to have police thinking about three felonies, the first two of which, individually, would put you in the state’s sex offender registry.

Police filed report on the alleged attack Feb. 22 while interviewing an alleged victim of three senior basketball players. They were suspended from school for a Jan. 22 “bullying” (what the school is calling it) incident on a 100-mile bus ride back from a game in Terre Haute. In among the few areas of the police report that weren’t Dick Cheneyed, the officer noted that he was informed by a victim of the bus incident (a victim who had to go to the hospital for his injuries) there were “ongoing issues that were occurring in the locker rooms at Carmel High School.” The Jan. 8 incident is the only one, as of yet, that police are investigating beyond the bus incident, which also is looking into whether felonies occurred, including sex crimes. The players, already acknowledged by the school as being suspended, are Robert Kitzinger, Brandon Hoge and Scott Laskowski, the latter the son of former Indiana University player and current television announcer John Laskowski.

In what may or may not related, a fourth senior basketball player, Oscar Faludon, was suspended from school for allegedly attacking another student in the boys’ locker room. Police have not said whether there is a link, or not, between that case and the newest police report.

It is extremely unfortunate for the one senior, Alex Payne, who has so far kept his head above the fray, that his special night has been ruined. (Me not living in Carmel anymore, I’m still trying to find out whether Senior Day was canceled or otherwise scaled back.) But it hasn’t been ruined just by teammates who apparently were on a serious power trip… heck, I don’t know WHAT their problem was.

Senior Day also has been ruined by all the adults involved, or better yet not involved.

The coaches who didn’t pay attention to what was going on behind them on the bus.

The coaches who let seniors onto the freshman bus against policy in the first place.

The head basketball coach, who in his own statements has made clear he’s much more concerned about how this affects his won-loss record than the children involved.

The coaches who failed to monitor what was happening in their own locker rooms.

The administrators who tried to bury their heads in the sand about this and had an investigation forced upon them. Listen to the principal in the clip below, and prepare to be appalled:

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The police who, allegedly in the name of children’s privacy, perhaps illegally refused to release documents until the Indiana’s state public access watchdog was sicced on them.

An adult culture that made the school bus victim(s) so fearful, the kids themselves were afraid to step up and say anything — this conduct came to light only because a parent overheard it while at the school, and because the hospital had to inform the Department of Child Services about the circumstances and nature of the school bus victim’s injuries.

One bit of kudos I have to give is to much-maligned local television news. Indianapolis’ four major TV news operations have been all over this case, and it’s notable that the reports police have released are emailed straight to them — and not to any print media. Ouch. In fact, local TV news has broken every bit of significant information on the story.

POSTGAME FOLLOW-UP: Carmel beat Brebeuf Jesuit Prep, for those keeping score. However, Indiana blogger Kent Sterling reports that lone senior standing Alex Payne got a nice round of applause when he was introduced with the starting lineup — and that Brebeuf’s rooting section didn’t, as the kids say, go there on Carmel’s problems. The only incident, such as it were, was when the crowd spotted one television reporter who has been particularly aggressive on the hazing stories:

The only borderline moment was when Fox-59’s Kim King walked into the gym.  [Your Kid’s Not Going Pro editor’s note: this being Indiana, a 4,000-seat facility is called a “gym.”] I didn’t see her until she was in front of the scorer’s table.  You have to love this woman, unless you’re a Carmel student as you’ll read in a minute.  She is aggressively pursuing a story that is not going to lead to a pretty end for the high school in whose gym she is walking, but she doesn’t slip in the back door.  Nope, Kim walks right down to the floor during halftime and crosses in front of the scorer’s table and then the Carmel bench.  She stands in the corner with a person I’m guessing is her producer, and the crowd became a little quiet and started pointing.  Then there was a bit of huddling, followed by the chant “Go home, Kim!  Go home, Kim!”  Some of the parents laughed, which I thought was absurd because it was neither clever nor funny.  If Carmel is a school filled with as many smart kids as they claim, they should have come up with something witty.

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