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News Journal: Serious Willard HS Charges Dropped

Willard wrestlers plead guilty amid sex hazing charges

By DAN CLUTTER • News Journal • July 29, 2009

NORWALK — Three former Willard High School wrestlers pleaded guilty Monday to delinquent disorderly conduct amid charges stemming from hazing incidents.
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A complaint filed by Huron County Assistant Prosecutor Dina Shenker described two incidents in which three boys — ages 15, 16 and 17 — were accused of sexually abusing a freshman on the wrestling team.

The oldest boy was charged with assault and disorderly conduct. The other two were charged with complicity to assault and disorderly conduct.

All other charges were dropped when the teens agreed to plead guilty to disorderly conduct, a fourth-degree misdemeanor, in juvenile court.

The incidents occurred in December and February.

Shenker said the prosecutor’s office became involved when the victim’s parents went to Willard police.

Shenker said the victim’s family received abuse from former Willard High School wrestling coach Todd Fox and other parents and wrestlers, and said the family still receives threats.

“We needed to give the victim some finality,” Shenker said.

Fox resign- ed as wrestling coach Feb. 6 after receiving a letter of reprimand. He rescinded his resignation three days later, saying he let his emotions get the better of him.

The Willard school board, however, accepted the resignation and approved his removal March 3.

Fox said the incidents took place in the wrestling room before practice, and he was not present.

Shenker said assault and complicity to assault charges were dropped because there is little difference in disposition between first-degree and fourth-degree misdemeanors.

“The boys were more willing to admit they did these things under those circumstances,” she said. “Plus, we didn’t want to put the victim through three trials.”

The boys will learn their fates when they are sentenced. Shenker said rather than jail time, the three likely will see other sanctions.

“There are a lot of options ,” she said. “There is active probation, some kind of community service to pay back the victim for what they put him through. Plus, mental health assessments have to be made for each of the boys to determine a course of action.”

The plea agreement includes an order for each boy to stay away from the victim, and they must send him letters of apology. Shenker said the three will not be allowed on the wrestling team, and they will be closely monitored in other sports.

“The goal here is not to punish, but to rehabilitate,” Shenker said.

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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