By Tom Olsen | Duluth News Tribune
A former Proctor High School football player pleaded guilty Tuesday to sexually assaulting a teammate in a post-practice incident that he described as “a joke that went too far.”
The former soccer player, now 18, admitted attacking the 15-year-old with a toilet plunger, whom he chased after varsity practice on September 7 with half a dozen other team-mates.
“I saw a couple of people attack him and then take his pants off of him,” he testified at a hearing at the St. Louis County Courthouse. “He was lying on his stomach and I stabbed him with a butt.”
Rumors of the attack led to the cancellation of the team’s season, significant community and social media outcry, a lengthy police investigation, and the resignation of the team’s coach, among other things.
The former player, who pleaded guilty to a third-degree criminal sex conduct felony, agreed to be called a “juvenile with extended jurisdiction”. That means his case will technically remain in juvenile court, but he’ll also receive a suspended adult sentence.
Judge Dale Harris told him he would almost certainly remain on parole until his 21st birthday in January 2025, when juvenile court jurisdiction expires. Specific terms will be determined by Harris at an injunction hearing on June 20th.
Tuesday’s hearing was set for the judge to consider whether the former soccer player, who was 17 at the time of the offences, should be allowed to stand trial as an adult. But St. Louis County Prosecutor Korey Horn dropped that request, saying the extended juvenile detention was the appropriate outcome after undergoing a psychosexual evaluation, an individual family assessment and a certification study.
“After consulting with the victim, the victim’s family, and reviewing all of the reviews, I believe the community is best served with an EJJ (extended juvenile jurisdiction) designation in this case,” Horn said.
The former footballer, accompanied by his parents, wore a blue suit as he sat at the legal table between defenders Andrew Poole and Brent Olson. He agreed that the facts alleged in a January juvenile delinquency filing were largely correct, although he was clearly uncomfortable addressing some of the more graphic elements in open court.
He described himself as “fairly good friends” with the victim and said the September incident “started over a Snapchat group thing.” He didn’t elaborate as the judge said it was irrelevant, but the petition said a third party had sent a lewd photo to a group of soccer players using the victim’s phone and Snapchat account.
He told the court that there had been an ongoing commotion in the dressing room over the butt. He said players would touch each other with both ends of the tool and joke about “getting the plunger.”
On the day in question, he admitted that he and a handful of teammates chased the victim from the locker room to the practice ground while others attacked the boy. He said two others removed the teenager’s pants before he committed the attack.
“You agree that when you did that there was penetration?” Poole asked.
“Yes,” he replied.
“And you agree that force was used to achieve that?”
“Was he physically fixed then?”
He named six teammates he said were involved in tracking and restraining the victim, and described each individual’s role in the incident. He said he didn’t specifically tell them how he would use the plunger, but claimed they knew of his intention.
“It was a joke that went too far,” he said. “Others had talked about it, but it had never been used that way.”
However, the petition had indicated that several witnesses said they believed he was joking up until the moment of the attack. After the incident, he reportedly returned to the dressing room and declared, “I did it” and “I bet you guys didn’t think I would do it.”
He said Tuesday he didn’t remember what he might have said after the attack.
Although the area was in view of a surveillance camera, authorities said the system was not working during the alleged attack. Investigators also said they were unable to identify anyone who confirmed seeing a first-hand recording of the incident.
While the incident was scheduled to be investigated by Proctor Police, the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office has not announced charges against anyone else. Court records are public only if the suspect was 18 or older at the time of the crime, if a 16 or 17 year old is charged, or if a 14 or 15 year old is certified as an adult.
Horn said after Tuesday’s hearing that he could not comment on the status of other cases that have arisen or may yet arise as a result of the inquiry and his plea.
This story comes from the Duluth News Tribune. Read it on their website here.
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