John R K Howard plea deal leads to outcry as a former football player accused of violent sexual assault is to now be spared jail.
John R.K. Howard a former Dietrich, Idaho high school football player has been likely spared any jail time after pleading guilty to a lesser charge after allegedly violently sexually assaulting a black disabled team-mate with a coat hanger after practice.
The attack which took place last year according to a report via the Twin Falls Times-News involved the now 19 year old student allegedly forcing a coat hanger in the rectum of his mentally disabled victim before kicking it in.
Howard and his lawyers say that another student put the coat hanger in and Howard ‘accidentally’ kicked it in while trying to kick the victim; the state claimed he did it on purpose.
The incident left the boy bleeding but without any lasting physical harm,
never mind the emotional and psychological trauma.
A $10 million civil lawsuit against the school district claims the attack came after months of harassment, assault, and racial discrimination, while accusing the school of ‘deliberate indifference.’ The victim and his adopted siblings are the only black people in their small town of Dietrich, Idaho.
Notes the suit in part: ‘Mr. Howard is a relative of prominent individuals in the community and, at least in part due to his athletic ability and community connections, the Defendants ignored or were deliberately indifferent to the behavior of Mr. Howard which included aggression, taunting and bullying of The Plaintiff and other students in the District.’
Howard, the suit claims, forced the victim to learn a Ku Klux Klan song and hold a Confederate flag, and even knocked him unconscious while teammates cheered.
Prosecutors now say this wasn’t a sex crime along with dropping claims that the crime was motivated by racism. Deciding instead to allow Howard to opt for the plea deal.
The terms of the plea deal agreed to allowed Howard to maintain his innocence while admitting that the prosecution had enough evidence to convict him if the case went to trial.
‘It was egregious behavior, it caused this victim a lot of suffering, but it is not, in my view, a sex crime, which is why the state has amended this charge.’ Deputy Attorney General Casey Hemmer told via the Twin Falls Times-News.
Adding: ‘We don’t believe it’s appropriate for Mr. Howard to suffer the consequences of a sex offender,’
‘But he still needs to be held accountable.”
Howard’s lawyer, Brad Calbo, added, ‘it needs to be crystal clear … that this victim was not at any time pinned down, raped, or pinned down and subjected to any sort of forcible penetration.’
Of note, the other two attackers have been charged in juvenile court, and one has pleaded guilty.
Howard has now pleaded guilty to a felony count of injury to a child. He will be sentenced early next year, but the plea deal will likely lead to a sentence of two to three years of probation and 300 hours of community service.
The football player has also agreed to take any classes his probation officer recommends, which could include anti-bullying and anti-discrimination classes.
According to the Times-News, Howard could even have his conviction dismissed if he goes through probation without committing new crimes. But if he violates his probation, he could face up to 10 years behind bars and a $50,000 fine.
Responding to the plea deal, the victim’s attorney, R. Keith Roark, said justice had not been served; he said he has protested the decision to the state attorney general’s office.
‘It’s absolutely preposterous that this kid should walk away with apparently no punishment whatsoever,’ he told the Washington Post. ‘Everyone is more concerned with these young sociopaths than the victim of their violence.’
What do you think, was justice served? What if the race of the victim and assailant had been reversed, what if the assailant wasn’t a star ‘privileged’ football player? Or is this what happens when you live in that part of the world where you are conditioned to believe because of your physical prowess, skin color and pre-supposed racial superiority that one can behave with impunity ….?