A White teen originally charged with sexually assaulting a Black, mentally disabled teammate in Idaho after an Oct. 2015 football practice will avoid jail time for his offense, the Twin Falls Times-News reports.
John R.K. Howard, 19, of Keller, Tex., pleaded guilty Friday in a Twin Falls courtroom to a felony count of injury to a child. He will be sentenced to two to three years of probation, which he’ll likely be able to complete in his home state. Prosecutors will also recommend that Howard complete 300 hours of community service.
The verdict is a sharp contrast to the original charges of a racially motivated sex crime Keller faced.
“We don’t believe it’s appropriate for Mr. Howard to suffer the consequences of a sex offender,” Deputy Attorney General Casey Hemmer said. “But he still needs to be held accountable.”
The victim has filed a $10 million civil suit that accuses Howard of humping and taunting him during practices, and forcing him to learn a Ku Klux Klan song while displaying a Confederate flag. Howard is also accused of knocking the victim unconscious during football camp as players and coaches cheered in a circle. The victim says he was also called racially charged names like “Kool-Aid,” “chicken-eater,” “watermelon” and “nigg**.”
The criminal case did not address those claims. Instead, it solely focuses on the locker room attack, where Howard was accused of brutally raping the mentally disabled teammate with a coat hanger.
When asked in court if prosecutors planned to argue the attack was racially motivated, the answer was shocking.
“Your honor, based on what we’ve had, no,” Hemmer responded. “I will say that there are things that we found going around that school and that locker room involving a lot of the parties here that had racial undertones. But it’s not our belief that this was a racially motivated crime. This was more of a vulnerable-victim motivated crime. I think it probably would have happened to anybody that was in the same kind of circumstances and mental state as the victim here.”
Howard agreed to complete any classes recommended by his probation officer, “including a race-based sensitivity class and anti-bullying class, if they are available.”
The deputy attorney general confirmed, without mentioning his name specifically, that Tanner Ward, 17, another White teammate of the victim’s, pleaded guilty in a juvenile case. Ward was originally charged as an adult with forcible penetration by use of a foreign object. As part of plea negotiations, his charged was moved to juvenile court.