A small town in Idaho is about to undergo a racially charged trial as the family of a black, mentally disabled teenage football player has filed a lawsuit against his high school for a $10 million sum after his white teammates allegedly violently raped the boy with a coat hanger.
The family of the teenager who suffered the sexual assault say that the three attackers were racially motivated and had spent months prior to the horrific crime harassing the boy who has “mental disorders including learning disabilities.” According to the criminal complaint, the assault occurred on October 23, 2015, and involved three white male students from Dietrich High School luring their 18-year-old black, mentally disabled teammate into the high school locker room after a football practice with the promise of a hug, only to viciously and maliciously violate him with a coat hanger.
A family of a teenage boy is claiming he was allegedly raped by his "racist" teammates https://t.co/nVTv7jW6ja— New York Post (@nypost) May 25, 2016
Authorities relayed that while one of the teammates held the victim down, another of Dietrich’s football players allegedly took a coat hanger and thrust it into the mentally disabled boy’s rectum. As if that torture was not enough, they allegedly inflicted worse injuries as a third teammate then proceeded to repeatedly kick the coat hanger while it was still inside their victim. Inevitably, the New York Post reported, the violent sexual assault sent the boy to the hospital.
Now, following an investigation which lasted for several months, sexual assault charges have been filed by the state attorney general’s office against the three accused attackers. Due to the seriousness of the crime, two of the three teenage abusers — John R.K. Howard, 18, who is a transfer student from Texas, and 17-year-old Tanner Ward — are going to be tried as adults, and under Idaho law, this means that they could face a sentence of life in prison if they are convicted. The third teen who allegedly raped the mentally disabled boy is a 16-year-old who has not been named and will be tried as a juvenile.
The testimony of a witness is what led to the decision to try the two boys as adults. The witness stated that Tanner Ward was the one who initiated the vicious sexual assault and John R.K. Howard was the person who kicked the coat hanger while it was jammed inside the victim’s rectum, doing so about five or six times and causing the painful injuries which required treatment at a hospital. Both of those being tried as adults will face the felony charge of forcible penetration by use of a foreign object.
Howard’s preliminary hearing is set for June 10 and he has not entered a plea as yet, while the trial for Ward is scheduled for September 26.
A hearing held on Friday was the first time the details of the assault were released to the public after Idaho Attorney General’s Office requested a judge seal the records. The witness was another student who had been in the locker room at the time; the principal of Dietrich High School was made aware of what he had witnessed. Magic Valley wrote that the 18-year-old mentally disabled boy, who, as the victim of sexual assault, is not being identified, also testified in court and recalled that the three boys who allegedly raped him were laughing the entire time.
“I screamed. I was pretty upset. I felt really bad. A little betrayed and confused at the same time. It was terrible — a pain I’ve never felt.”
The parents of the victim said that it was extremely hard to see their son have to relive the painful moments in court but they were proud of the courage he displayed. For their part, the Idaho family is bringing charges against Dietrich High School because of the prolonged abuse the boy suffered prior to being raped, which the school allegedly did nothing to dissuade. Their suit states that the victim was often “taunted and called racist names by other members of the team, including ‘Kool-Aid’, ‘chicken eater’, ‘watermelon’ and [the N-word].”
Their civil suit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Idaho and also makes claims that one of the students who are being charged with the rape displayed a Confederate flag and forced the victim to recite the lyrics of a racist song titled “Notorious KKK.” Eleven school employees are named as defendants including the football coach who is said to have allowed others on the team to physically abuse the mentally disabled boy, even letting them knock him unconscious at one point.
The Idaho town has a population of 334 and the victim is one of the few black students in the predominantly white community.
[Photo Courtesy of Tarrant County]