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Two players found not-guilty in Wilson case: ESPN

Two boys found not guilty of hazing

By Elizabeth Merrill
ESPN.com
(Archive)

Updated: July 9, 2009, 4:36 PM ET

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Two of three boys charged in a hazing case in Wilson, N.Y., have been found not guilty.

A Town Torn Apart

Varsity baseball players as old as 18, riding on the same bus with junior varsity players as young as 13 — what happened on that bus in April in upstate New York changed the lives of many of the players, coaches and parents in their small community of Wilson. Story

OTL: Reporter Steve Cyphers visits Wilson and talks with the parents of the victims. Watch

Andrew Vona, the attorney for one of the varsity baseball players initially charged with felony counts of aggravated sexual abuse, was informed in a written decision Thursday that his client was found not guilty in a non-jury trial on charges of hazing, forcible touching, and misdemeanor child abuse.

Earlier this week, former Wilson baseball coaches Thomas Baia and William Atlas were cleared on charges of endangering the welfare of a child. The Buffalo News reported that the other accused baseball player pleaded guilty June 9 to child endangerment and has yet to be sentenced.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Vona, whose 17-year-old client is back in school at Wilson. “I think it’s absolutely the right decision. Finally, my client can exhale and the whole community of Wilson can get back to their lives.”

The 2008 Wilson High baseball season was canceled after three varsity players were charged with abusing at least three members of the junior varsity team on a bus traveling back from a road game on April 17, 2008.

Two of the victims are still going forward with a civil suit against the Wilson school district, their lawyer, Terry Connors, said.

Mike Paul, a spokesman for Baia and Atlas, called the allegations “a lie from the pit of hell.” He said when word came Thursday that the charges against two of the boys had been dropped, the coaches cried.

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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