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Carmel basketball hazing victim: “I don’t smile as much as I used to”

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The attorney for the one of the targets of hazing last season by teammates of his Carmel (Ind.) High School basketball team — three former members of which are facing misdemeanor criminal charges, not counting the other one who has already pleaded guilty, as a result of hazing incidents — put his client out there, sort of, on Nov. 12 for a news conference.

I say sort of because the rules of the road laid down by attorney Robert Turner included no identifying the victim, no identifying his parents, and no pictures. Still, this is the first time the public has heard from any of the victims of one of the more notorious and talked-about cases of youth sports hazing in recent memory. However, Fox59 News in Indianapolis said the victim holding the news conference was the subject of the Indiana Department of Children and Family Services sexual assault report that blew the lid off the case.

Here are some quotes from the victim, as relayed by The Indianapolis Star:

How has your life changed? “I don’t smile as much as I used to. I don’t laugh and joke as much as I used to.”

Did you embellish your story to authorities? “I’m sure I would not make something like this up. I would not be in the situation I am here if I were making this up. I am very very serious about this.” (Fox59 also has him saying, “Why would I make something like this up?”)

Any advice to other victims for getting authorities to listen? “You just have to keep saying it and saying it.”

Also, the Star quoted the victim’s mother: “You’re supposed to feel safe to go to your leaders, your coaches and your teachers, and know something is going to be done. … They (students) are watching everything that is going on, and saying, ‘what’s the point.’ Look at what we’ve been through and still nothing’s happened.”

In particular, she’s talking about the plea deal for Scott Laskowski, who the previous week had pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of criminal recklessness. Laskowski, the son of former Indiana University player and longtime IU basketball announcer John Laskowski, was sentenced to slightly less than a year of probation and 40 hours of community service. He also was ordered to stay away from the victim.

Despite the Department of Children and Family Services report saying that the victim was anally penetrated with foreign objects, no felony or sexual assault charges have yet been made against Laskowski and the three others who have been indicted in north suburban Indianapolis’ Hamilton County on misdemeanor charges: Robert Kitzinger, Brandon Hoge and Oscar Faludon, all of whom, like Laskowski, graduated in spring 2010.

The charges are related to incidents in Carmel’s locker room. Fox59 reported on Nov. 5 that it’s expected the other players will follow Laskowski’s lead and take plea deals, which would certainly eliminate any chance Laskowski would have to testify in their cases. (Also, the judge handling their case on Oct. 27 was arrested for drunken driving while on vacation in North Carolina.)

I say there are no felony or sexual assault charges “yet” because the prosecutor in west suburban Hendricks County is still investigating a hazing incident on the back of a team bus heading back from a January game in Terre Haute. Laskowski, Kitzinger and Hoge were suspended from the team for that incident (Faludon was suspended for the locker-room incident). There’s no word on when those charges might come.

Not surprisingly, the victim’s family — and its lawyer, who is the former public safety director for the Indianapolis police — feel like everyone involved has not investigated or dealt with the hazing case sufficiently. Turner has threatened lawsuits, and said during the Nov. 12 news conference that he will file a complaint with the U.S. Attorney to investigate the Hamilton County prosecutor, the players’ attorneys and others he said have manipulated witnesses. So far, these only have been threats.

In fact, Turner has had a lot of public bluster that hasn’t gone much of anywhere. But whatever Turner’s tactics, what will not change is that the victim will feel the effects of what happened forever, no matter what a court says. It’s cases like this that explain why, say, the Needham (Mass.) High School administration took a zero-tolerance stance toward supposedly far more innocent hazing with its girls soccer team. Hazing is a power trip, and a school trusts its students not to go too far with it at its own, and its students’, peril.

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

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.

Sports hazing: when you can't bring yourself to admit you're gay

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I’m not sure why we call sports hazing, hazing, and not something more descriptive. Like, “Just because I’m sticking this pine cone up your ass doesn’t mean I’m some kinda fuckin’ homo.”

What stuns me about societal acceptance of hazing, particularly in youth sports — well, a lot stuns me, but I’ll stick to this one thing — is how a community can rally around athletes and coaches who participate and condone in homoerotic fantasies and exercises, when if the athletes were otherwise engaged in consensual gay activity, they would have a societal pine cone shoved up their asses.

Sports hazing is in the news again as ex-Willard High (Ohio) wrestling coach Todd Fox sued the parents of a wrestler who alleged he was bullied. Fox says the parents are harassing and defaming him, thus depriving him of coaching opportunities elsewhere. Fox is still employed as a teacher, but he resigned in March 2009 after 10 years as Willard’s wrestling coach after the hazing allegations emerged.

The Mansfield News-Journal, the latest to report Fox’s lawsuit, filed in November, was too discreet to describe the allegations. But the Sandusky Register was less circumspect in October in a story about the sentencing of two of the three wrestlers who plead guilty to disorderly conduct in relation to the hazing:

“I am sorry I am involved in the mess that’s still going on,” the junior said. “I lost a great friend and a wrestling partner. I want you to know I did not realize you were being hurt or felt the way you did.”

The junior said in January he held the freshman down on school property while another teammate grabbed the boy’s testicles through his shorts and then pushed his fingers through the back fabric of his shorts into the boy’s rectum.

He then pulled the freshman’s shorts down when he stood up.

The junior said he would not have pinned the freshman down if he knew such depraved acts were to come.

Defense attorney Peter McGory said the incident was “life-altering,” and his client learned an important lesson about horseplay.

McGory said his client was prepared to make amends, but he urged the court not to forbid him from wrestling. McGory said the junior plans to attend college on a sports scholarships.

Judge Meyer denied the request. …

Weeks before the freshman wrestler was held down and mistreated, the senior [the second defendant] sat naked on the boy’s chest in the locker room area and put his genitals near the boy’s face.

As he did this, another teammate snapped a photograph.

Not long after pleading guilty in this incident, the senior was reprimanded by officials for his antics at football camp, which included sticking a phone receiver in a pair of Speedo underwear he was wearing.

The attorney for the senior also urged the court not to suspend his client from sports.

But unlike in the junior’s case, the attorney’s arguments convinced the judge.

Given the descriptions, what comes to mind is not disorderly conduct. It’s rape, rape done by horny high school boys too filled with self-hate, a self-hate that grew from a lifetime of coaches, parents and community definitions of he-manliness, for their homosexual urges to act out in remotely healthy way. And I know that’s an insult to self-hating gays who don’t act out by forcibly sticking their fingers up men’s rectums.

The judge’s sentence of community service, mental health evaluations and letters of apology seems laughably small given the crime, but no prosecutor is going to try a hazing case as rape. The community outcry is already great just for holding athletes just a little bit accountable. When a star wrestler in Colorado last year was indicted on hazing-related charges, most of the comments to the local newspaper about the case were in support of the wrestler.

At least the judge (who accepted a guilty plea deal that included dropping assault charges) did more than the coach, who just made his wrestlers run laps. Fox claims the victimized wrestler didn’t tell him enough, and that it’s unfair his family would badmouth him. From the Mansfield newspaper:

[Attorney David] Firestine said Fox’s response to the incident was based on information provided by the victimized wrestler. He said Fox would have acted differently if presented with more details.

“Whether it was horseplay or hazing is still to be known,” Firestine said. “(Fox) had no opportunity to deal with the facts as presented to everyone else.”

Horseplay or hazing, still to be known? After three of wrestlers were sentenced? Unless horses play by grabbing each other’s balls and/or sticking hooves up rectums, it seems pretty clear at this point it was hazing. If Fox thinks he’s permanently scarred by what happened, at least he’s not reminded every time he, say, wipes.

There are a lot of hazing experts who have done a great job trying to get people to take the issue seriously, but I’m really wondering, at least among men, whether the issue is desire to exert power over others, or whether the issue really is a bunch of closest queens who can’t bring themselves to do anything they feel doesn’t befit a manly king.

Maybe in the course of their mental health assessment, these wrestlers might confront their greatest fear: that just because you’re sticking your fingers up another guy’s rectum does, in fact, mean you’re some kinda fuckin’ homo.

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Written by rkcookjr

January 10, 2010 at 11:00 pm