Teen avoids jail in coat-hanger assault case

The case been compared to that of Brock Turner's

Teen avoids jail in coat-hanger assault case

Image: Tarrant County Sheriff's Office

A 19 year-old high school footballer in Idaho accused of kicking a coat hanger up the rectum of a mentally disabled black teammate received no jail time at this sentencing.

John R. K. Howard was sentenced to probation and community service, and his conviction might be entirely dismissed at a later date.

The Twin Falls Times-News writes that supporters of the black player see the sentencing as "a slap on the wrist for a privileged white teen who preyed on a disabled teammate from the only black family in town."

Howard, who pleaded guilty to felony injury of a child, had originally been charged with sexual assault. But prosecutors later decided that, while they were confident they could prove Howard kicked the coat hanger into his teammate's rectum, the act did not constitute a sex crime. District Judge Randy Stoker agreed, and approved the plea deal for a lesser charge in December.

Judge Stoker also discounted testimony of racist remarks toward the black player and concluded that the assault was not racially motivated.

"Whatever happened in that locker room was not sexual," he said. "In my view, this is not a case about racial bias," he also said.

"People from the east coast have no idea what this case is about," he said, according to the Guardian. "But I'm not going to impose a sentence that is not supported by the law."

The decision has prompted nearly 150,000 people to sign change.orgpetition to have the judge removed from the bench in Idaho, had been misconstrued.

Two other members of the football team were also charged in connection with the attack. The Idaho Statesman reports that the outcomes of their cases are sealed in juvenile court.

Howard's defense attorney didn't deny that this incident occurred, arguing that the football star kicked at his black teammate while the hanger was between his buttocks, but did not intentionally kick at the hanger itself, the Times-News reports. The attorney also argued that Howard may not have known the hanger, which was inserted by another player, was there.

"The truth will come out"

In addition to the criminal cases at the state level, the mentally disabled young man's parents are also pursuing a federal civil case, which is still ongoing. "The truth will come out," the family's attorney in that case said, according to The Guardian.

Tim and Shelly McDaniel accused three football players of a months-long campaign of racist bullying of their adopted son, culminating in the assault. Shelly McDaniel said she was "just shunned" when she went to administrators for help.

Throughout the case, the mentally disabled young man referred to his teammates as his "friends", even while testifying about racist comments and physical abuse.

The victim has also testified that Howard repeatedly called him the n-word and taught him a KKK-glorifying song that called for the lynching of black people, and that other members of the football team called him "fried chicken," "watermelon," "Kool-Aid" and "grape soda," the Times-News reports.

The case took an unexpected turn at the sentencing hearing on Friday, when a May 2016 audio tape emerged of the mentally disabled young man saying his parents pressured him into testifying, for the sake of the $10 million civil suit, and that he lied under oath when he made his allegations.

The McDaniels were reported to have left the courtroom in a fury.

However, elsewhere on the tape, in a section not mentioned in court on Friday but disclosed in a civil case document, the mentally disabled player reiterates that the coat hanger assault happened.

"I honestly don't know who did the hanger thing," he tells his coaches. "All I know is that it happened."