Ariz. High School Wrestlers Arrested for Sexual Bullying of Fellow Student
Nine high school students from small Arizona town were arrested this week for allegedly bullying and hazing a fellow student, the Tucson, Ariz., ABC affiliate KGNU9 reports.
All nine offenders are members of the Sahuarita High School wrestling team. Sgt. Matt McGlone of the Sahuarita Police Department told the station that the students have each been charged with one count of aggravated assault and one count of kidnapping. Sahuarita, 25,000, lies 23 miles south of Tucson.
According to reports, the incident occurred on Tuesday night when a group of students saw another student on the ground in the school's locker room. The police were notified the following day. McGlone said the the victim is not on the wrestling team.
The police report that the incident involved lewd acts, including digital penetration, but according to McGlone, police do not have probable cause to file sexual assault charges.
"The victim was forced to the ground and forcibly held by four individuals," the police report reads. "The victim's pants and underwear were forcibly removed." The reports noted the incident lasted two to five minutes and the entire group participated in the harassment.
"The locker room apparently was full at the time so there are several people who witnessed the assault, and also were possibly involved in it," McGlone told KGNU9. "We're still trying to identify all the individual students that were involved in it." The officer added the students were charged with kidnapping because the victim was restrained.
Mike Piccarretta, an attorney not involved in this case but who has dealt with similar incidents, told the news station that the initial charges were filed as place holders, which will allow prosecutors to examine the incident thoroughly.
"When you read [the report] you need more information to determine whether the acts although they were sexual in nature, were done with a sexual motivation and that's something that the police, the prosecutors and ultimately a jury will have to struggle with," Piccarretta said.
Three of the nine students charged are adults, Andres Vasquez, Marcus Stitts and Jorge Loya-Lopez; six others, who are 14, 16 and 17, remain unnamed and will be charged as juveniles. AZ Central reported that the three adults were held in Pima County jail while a judge remanded the three minors to remain in custody at the Pima County Juvenile Detention Center. One minor is scheduled to return to court on Jan. 29 and the other two Feb. 1.
"The proper steps will be taken to find out what happened and handle it appropriately," Sahuarita Schools Superintendent Dr. Manuel Valenzuela told the TV station. He added that the authorities must finish their investigation before the district can take discipline the students.
While most outlets report nine students were charged with assault, the Sahuarita Sun reports that only six high school wrestlers were accused of hazing the victim and that police said they did not commit any sexual assault at all. "I've heard from the investigators and it was not a sexual assault in any way," McGlone told the Sahuarita Sun.
The local paper reported that prosecutors are deciding whether the students will face felony or lesser charges. A juvenile court spokeswoman told the newspaper that the juveniles, are in custody on felony kidnapping and aggravated assault charges and will appear in court next week.
Tom Drogan, a wrestling coach for the high school, said that some wrestlers have been suspended from the team after the incident but have since been reinstated.