Chesco D.A. discusses high-school hazing case

Chesco D.A. discusses high-school hazing case

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It was a crime that rocked Chester County.

A 14-year-old student at Conestoga High School was held down by two older students, while a third student poked a broomstick in the boy’s rectum. 

In a recent interview, Chester County District Attorney Thomas P. Hogan discussed challenges he faced in prosecuting the case. He also explained a plea agreement in the case, which resulted in no jail time or fines for the three defendants.

The incident took place October 2015 in a locker room at the school. All of the boys played football at the school. The victim said he resisted any physical contact with the defendants and the broom.

The defendants initially were charged with simple assault, unlawful restraint, conspiracy and related offenses. They faced a lengthy prison term, if convicted of all charges.

However, after defense attorneys said their clients would plead guilty to a summary offense of harassment in return for other charges being dropped, the D.A.’s Office accepted the proposal.

On Jan. 3, 2017, both sides issued a joint statement announcing the plea agreement. According to the statement, the victim was poked with a broom on his leg. Hogan said the wording of the joint statement was the best that both sides could agree upon.

Hogan said an extensive investigation was undertaken prior to the plea agreement, generating about 500 pages of reports and 20 DVDs of recorded witness interviews.

Hogan expressed disappointment that some people still insist the incident never took place. “There is this hardcore band of football loyalists who say that nothing ever happened, that the whole thing was a lie,” he said.

But in fairness to Hogan’s critics, the failure of the statement to mention that a broom penetrated the boy’s rectum may have fueled speculation that the entire incident was fabricated.

Hogan emphasized that he believes the victim, who maintains he was penetrated anally by a broomstick. 

“[The victim] had our backing 100-percent,” Hogan continued. “We have every confidence in his testimony and in the evidence.”

Hogan said the victim was consulted and didn’t oppose the plea agreement. Hogan also noted the possibility of acquittals if the case went to trial. 

“We were more than happy to try the case,” Hogan added. “The reason we went along with [the plea agreement] was because the victim said that was sufficient for him. As long as that made sense for us, we were willing to honor the victim’s view of the world.”

Hogan expressed mixed feelings about the final outcome. He says he’d like to have seen a public apology from the defendants, but that never happened. 

Still, Hogan said he’s gratified that reforms were instituted at Conestoga High School. For example, there’s no longer a tradition that on Thursdays at Conestoga, some students publicly simulate gay sex.

“We put an end to hazing at this school and [we put] a serious damper on hazing throughout Chester County,” Hogan noted. 

Additionally, coaches at the high school who failed to adequately supervise their players were dismissed — though Hogan doesn’t take credit for that outcome.

The defendants admitted they harassed the victim, which is a criminal offense, thus providing a modicum of justice for the victim, Hogan said.

Hogan also said he stands by a letter to the editor his office sent to several newspapers in June. “At the end of the day, the prosecutors, detectives, defense lawyers and the court all did their jobs in this case with integrity and fairness,” the letter concludes.

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