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Misdemeanor Charges in Hazing Incident

Misdemeanor Charges in Hazing Incident

Updated - Feb. 11, 2003 at 10:41 a.m. | Posted - Feb. 11, 2003 at 10:40 a.m.



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MANTI, Utah (AP) -- The Sanpete County attorney believes two North Sanpete High School wrestlers who allegedly forcibly shaved the genital area of a male cheerleader should face misdemeanor assault charges.

County Attorney Ross Blackham said he was filing a juvenile-court action against a 17-year-old student and was recommending that the Mt. Pleasant city prosecutor pursue a misdemeanor complaint against an 18-year-old student.

Meanwhile, the alleged victim's parents announced they were seeking financial damages from the North Sanpete School District over the way school officials handled the incident. They said that if the school district didn't settle, they would take the case to court.

The charges arose from an incident originally reported as having occurred Jan. 22 and which school officials now say occurred Jan. 21.

The alleged victim, a sophomore who weighs less than 150 pounds, reported that the 18-year-old, a senior, who weighs more than 250 pounds, had pinned him to the locker in the boys' locker room while the other wrestler, also a senior, pulled down his pants and shaved pubic hair with an electric razor.

The victim reported the incident to the school principal, John Ericksen, on Jan. 23.

The parents' attorney, Randy Kennard of Ephraim, said the family is concerned that the school allegedly attempted to cover up the facts.

According to statements in a hearing last week, the principal initially let the wrestlers off with a warning, but after the parent of another student called police and an anonymous tipster contacted the school superintendent, Ericksen suspended the wrestlers.

Last week, he meted out the final punishment: a 10-day suspension from school and a 30-day suspension from athletics.

The parents of the 18-year-old sought a restraining order to prevent the district from carrying out the suspension so their son, who was considered a contender for a high school heavyweight championship in Utah, could wrestle at a region meet. A judge refused to grant the restraining order.

Blackham said he had considered charges under Utah's anti-hazing statute, but determined the incident did not meet the criteria as it was not an initiation rite and did not have any connection with participation in a group.

Blackham said he "looked very carefully" at a charge of sexual assault, but decided the incident did not contain the elements required for such a charge.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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