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March 07, 2016

Chesco DA: Conestoga High assault victim requested no sexual charges be filed

Tom Hogan says he honored juvenile victim's wishes

03042016_Conestoga_High_GM Google/StreetView

Conestoga High School in Berwyn, Chester County.

The former Conestoga High School football player allegedly assaulted by a trio of teammates during a hazing ritual dubbed "No Gay Thursday" requested they not face sexual offense charges, Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan said Monday.

The trio of seniors, including one team captain, is facing charges of assault, conspiracy and related offenses in the juvenile system. The players allegedly penetrated the victim's rectum with a broomstick after he refused to help other underclassmen clean the team locker room while wearing just their underwear.

Hogan could have charged the players with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, but he instead honored the victim's request to withhold sexual offense charges.

"The victim's input on it was, 'I don't want that charge – This is hard enough for me to go through this. Adding that sexual side of it will make it that much harder,'" Hogan said. "His very clearly stated preference was, 'No I don't want that.'"

When filing charges, Hogan said he gives considerable weight to the requests of alleged sexual assault victims, noting they have to relive everything in court.

"We can say to the victim, 'To heck with you. This is going to go out there and you're just going to have to go up with it,'" Hogan said. "That's our judgment call at the end of the day. (But) it would take a lot for me to ignore him."

RELATED STORY: Conestoga football players charged in 'No Gay Thursday' assault

The 14-year-old victim was allegedly held down by two larger football players as he attempted to leave the locker room. One of the seniors allegedly ordered another senior to retrieve a broom and shove it up the boy's rectum.

The senior allegedly obliged and no one came to the victim's rescue. Team coaches do not share the same locker room and were not present during the alleged assault, Hogan said last week.

The incident allegedly was part of a weekly hazing ritual known as "No Gay Thursday," in which actions otherwise deemed as "gay" were permissible." The ritual allegedly persisted for at least three years.

The Tredyffrin/Easttown School District has launched its own investigation to determine whether the coaching staff knew of the hazing ritual and to issue possible additional penalties.

The lack of sexual charges drew angry responses from many readers, but Hogan said the only sexual offense charge he could have filed was involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.

Rape charges require sexual intercourse, which did not occur, Hogan said. Indecent assault charges require touching for the purpose of arousal or sexual gratification, neither of which allegedly occurred.

The three alleged perpetrators – all 17 years old at the time of the incident – also could not be charged with hazing because Pennsylvania's hazing statute only applies to college players, Hogan said. But the General Assembly has legislation pending to broaden the law's scope.

The alleged victim is no longer a student in the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District.