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Posts Tagged ‘Carmel High

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.

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Hazing in sports has a news explosion

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Lest one thinks Carmel, Ind., is the only place where youth sports-related hazing occurs, based on my breathless coverage of its boys’ basketball team’s situation, I bring you updates from just the past few days regarding other cases. Although Carmel is back in the news, too.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — According to KOAT-TV, a plea agreement is on hold regarding a 2008 hazing case in which six now-former Robertson (N.M.) Las Vegas High football players were accused of sodomizing teammates with a broomstick during football camp. A judge is examining the guilty plea of Steven Garcia, one of those players. On March 30 he pleaded guilty to rape and other charges, but in such a way that he can maintain his innocence even while being technically found guilty, and that he can be treated as a juvenile. Some parents shouted “no deal,” but a special prosecutor said others want it so they can put the incident behind them.

BREWER, Maine — A former Brewer High softball coach who sued the school over her firing has dropped her case March 31. According to the Bangor Daily News, Kelly Jo Cookson claimed she was fired in 2006 because she is a lesbian. However, the school said the firing was because of hazing. For example, according to the Daily News, the school said Cookson “had allowed student athletes to walk barefoot through sheep manure during a team picnic … .” Cookson dropped the case after the school refused to settle on the eve of a trial after two courts had supported the school’s contention that she condoned and supervised hazing.

CHANDLER, Ariz. — Basha High School announced on March 31 that it had hired a new football coach, Bernie Busken, who had led Mesa Mountain View to an 82-9 record and three Class 5A state championships in seven seasons.  However, that was from 1995-2001. Busken had been in exile, coaching small college football, since spring 2002, when he resigned, as Maxpreps.com put it, “amid allegations of verbally abusing players, allowing hazing rituals and excessive athlete-on-athlete contact after being warned to desist by the school district.” At the time, Busken was defiant, blaming his departure on a parental and media witch hunt. Now, he’s more contrite, those this statement to Maxpreps.com sounds more like the classic sorry-you-were-offended apology:  “I have never done anything where I meant to hurt someone physically, mentally or anything else. I just tried to prepare them for their one shot to do well. All I can do now is apologize. If I was kidding around and I crossed a line; for those things I was wrong and I am sorry.”

COOPERSVILLE, Mich. — An Ottawa County, Mich., judge, considering a FOIA request by the Grand Rapids Press, on March 31 forced the Coopersville schools to reveal how much was paid to two victims of 2007 junior varsity baseball hazing that resulted in four team members being expelled from school and receiving juvenile sentences for gross indecency. The two victims had sued the district, claiming it looked the other way while coaches encouraged or ignored hazing. One student received $95,000, and another received $55,000. The school did not have to admit guilt. Not only that, the school was pretty pissed off the settlements were made public. The superintendent told the Press that, fuck you very much, you’re now peeling the hazing scab off itty-bitty Coopersville. “They have been through a lot. They don’t need any more trouble from their neighbors or the community,” O’Neill said. It appears he meant the perpetrators as well as the victims.

GARFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio — Trinity High School baseball coach Nick Fratalonie resigned April 1 after the school confirmed a hazing incident the previous month involving his team. The school would not confirm exactly what happened and to whom, except that it was “not sexual in nature” and that team members received “disciplinary consequences.” Fratalonie told the Cleveland Plain Dealer he didn’t resign because of hazing. It was for “personal and family reasons.”

And last, but certainly not least:

CARMEL, Ind. — One of the two freshman boys basketball players allegedly assaulted by three senior teammates on a bus ride back from a game in Terre Haute has hired a lawyer. Robert Turner said the bus incident was not the first time his client, no longer a student at Carmel High, had been victimized, and there were other incidents with other victims. “In a school context of so-called hazing, bullying, as this has been characterized, this was much more than that,” he said to WRTV-TV in Indianapolis on March 31. “It’s the worst case I’ve seen … ever.” A prosecutor is considering whether to file charges against the players for the bus incident, which had police investigating possible battery and criminal deviate conduct, a sex crime. Turner said the victim’s family hasn’t decided whether to sue. Uh-huh.

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Inspired by his Hoosier forebear Booth Tarkington, Robert Turner is getting ready to go all Penrod and Sam on Carmel High.

Written by rkcookjr

April 3, 2010 at 12:30 am

Carmel hazing update: Prosecutor close to decision on charges

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The long, slow process of whether to charge three Carmel (Ind.) High School basketball players related to a hazing incident, which apparently took place aboard a school bus carrying them back from a game, appears to be coming close to an end. And the end doesn’t sound good for those players.

Hendricks County prosecutor Patricia Baldwin told WTHR-TV in Indianapolis that “I don’t see any reason why this needs to go on and on. It really ought to be able to be wrapped up relatively quickly.” Baldwin received the case two weeks ago from Hamilton County, Carmel’s location, because the alleged hazing took place in Hendricks County (west of Indianapolis), after a stop at an Arby’s in the town of Cloverdale in the western part of that county.

Baldwin confirmed that the three players — Scott Laskowski, Robert Kitzinger and Brandon Hoge, all seniors — being investigated are all over the age of 18 (logical to assume, considered Indiana’s kindergarten cutoff date is June 1, but this is the first time any authority has acknowledged their ages). Baldwin also told the Indianapolis television station that there is “about 10 different things that you could look at that come under sexual crimes.”

Save for a few interviews and a hoped-for look at bus security video (which apparently was already recorded over when Carmel police started investigating in late February), Baldwin says she’s got everything.

I’m not sure why Baldwin decided to tell a local television station where she stood. I’m guessing it might have something to do with the hue and cry coming from Carmel about the case. But I would suspect that the Laskowski, Kitzinger and Hoge families better firm up their legal representation, fast, because it sounds like Baldwin is ready to press on.

To recap: on Jan. 22, on a 100-mile trip back to the north Indianapolis suburb from a game in Terre Haute, two freshmen reportedly were assaulted on the back of a team bus, one of whom suffered injuries serious enough to necessitate a trip to the hospital. Despite the presence of coaches on board, apparently no one, at least at Carmel High, knew something very wrong happened until a parent overhearing a rumor and an official with Indiana’s child protection services said something. Laskowski, Kitzinger and Hoge were suspended from school for five days, beginning Feb. 19, and missed the final days of the basketball season.

Carmel police released a heavily redacted report, filed Feb. 22, on the allegations against the players, which included assault and criminal deviate conduct — a sex crime. (Baldwin told WTHR-TV that potential charges could include criminal deviate conduct, sexual battery and child molest, given the alleged perpetrators were older than 18, an the alleged victims younger than 18.)

Baldwin is not handling an investigation into a Jan. 8 locker room incident in which Carmel police, in another heavily redacted document, reported similar possible crimes as the bus incident. Senior Oscar Faludon was suspended by the school for the locker room incident, though he has not been charged with any crime. The Hamilton County prosecutor is handling that investigation because the alleged crime took place there. Under Indiana law, the prosecutor of the location where a crime is purported to have taken place is responsible for bringing any charges.

At this point, like in South Hadley, Mass., where charges were brought against nine students related to cyberbullying and/or physically bullying a student who eventually killed herself, it does not appear that Carmel school officials are likely to be held criminally culpable for anything that happened with the basketball team.

In the case of South Hadley, school officials were found to have known of the extent of bullying against 15-year-old Phoebe Prince. So far in Carmel, administrators and coaches have pleaded ignorance to anything that has happened. However, this WISH-TV interview with principal John Williams that aired Feb. 22 is going to be the grist for the inevitable, necessary lawsuit against the school district for its failure to protect its students.

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The key quote is: “I still am pretty comfortable with what happened on that bus and our knowledge of what took place on that bus.” Williams also denied parents had ever called to complain about bullying.

I hope he’s ready to say those words in a deposition.

Carmel hazing update: a little less redaction

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The dribs and drabs of information from Carmel (Ind.) police regarding two separate alleged assaults upon teammates by members of the high school basketball time dribbed and drabbed a little more today [March 15].

The police released a less redacted report on an incident that the complainant said occurred Jan. 8 in a Carmel High locker room, but did not come to light until Feb. 22, as police were taking statements on an alleged sexual assault that took place on a bus ride back from Terre Haute to the Indianapolis suburb.

(Quick summary: four senior players were suspended from the team, and school, for the alleged hazing incidents, one player for the Jan. 8 report, and three for the bus-ride report.)

The Carmel city attorney, Douglas Haney, who has been besieged by local media to release the full police reports in each incident, wrote today [March 15] that given the “current stage of the investigation,” he could take some black lines off the report concerning the Jan. 8 incident. He didn’t go into any further detail.

After comparing the two reports, it turns out very little was unerased. But it’s enough show that apparently more than one player was involved in the actual assault on a teammate. From the report (as posted by Fox 59 TV news in Indianapolis):

I was advised by [redacted] that [redacted] and [redacted] had been involved in an altercation with [redacted] in the locker room [redacted]. According to their information, [redacted] and [redacted] had held [redacted] down, pulled down his shorts [a full line redacted].

Written by rkcookjr

March 15, 2010 at 6:08 pm

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.