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Blogger says case against Wilson coaches “is in shambles.”

Blog: Occasional Thoughts from NYSSWA President John Moriello

John Moriello’s NYSSWA blog
Monday, June 22, 2009: Wilson hazing cases falling apart
Leading off today: Some 14 months after headline-grabbing allegations of sexual assualt during a hazing incident, The Buffalo News reports that the case against the accused is in shambles.

And now people in and around the Town of Wilson are wondering whether it’s a case of details from the incident involving varsity and JV baseball players being blown out of proportion, a botched investigation or a combination of the two.

What started as allegations that seniors had taken some younger players to the back of a school bus and forced objects into their rectums has deteriorated from felony aggravated sexual abuse to charges at the misdemeanor and violation level that might not hold up to scrutiny in the courtroom.

Similarly, coaches William M. Atlas and Thomas J. Baia, to be tried in Town Court on July 6 on charges of endangering the welfare of a child, face a less uncertain future. They are accused of not stopping whatever was happening on the bus, and their attorneys are poised to argue that there was nothing that needed to be stopped.

That’s the paper’s take on the situation following a careful examination of court filings as well as interviews with lawyers involved in the cases against the coaches and three players.

Reports about what happened April 17, 2008, led the State Police to say the incident involved criminal sexual acts. They also alleged there were similar incidents in previous years, laying the foundation for child-endangerment charges filed against the coaches.

However, Town Justice George R. Berger has barred the mention of previous incidents at the coaches’ trial, unless the defense were to bring it up. The paper also reported there is an internal investigation by the State Police into how the matter has been handled.

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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