Three high school football players in a small Idaho town are accused of sodomizing a mentally disabled boy with a coat hanger, and laughing as one of the students kicked the coat hanger into the victim's rectum.
Tanner Ward, 17, John R.K. Howard, 18, and a 16-year-old student each face charges in the racially charged attack on the victim, who is black, according to New York Daily News. Ward and Howard will be tried as adults, while the 16-year-old faces juvenile charges, the newspaper said. Juveniles typically aren't identified because their records can be potentially sealed in plea agreements.
The football players lured the victim, now 18, into a locker room at Dietrich High School on Oct. 22, 2015, by promising him a hug, according to the criminal complaint. Once inside, the attackers held the victim down, and one of the boys thrust the coat hanger into the victim's rectum while Howard kicked it, a witness told police.
The victim was badly injured and required hospital treatment. During a preliminary hearing for the trial against Ward, the victim told a judge his attackers were laughing as they assaulted him according to MagicValley.com, the website of the Times-News in Twin Falls, Idaho.
“I screamed,” the victim testified. “I was pretty upset. I felt really bad. A little betrayed and confused at the same time. It was terrible -- a pain I’ve never felt."
The victim is learning disabled and was adopted by white parents in Dietrich, a tiny city of 334 people in Lincoln County, Idaho, about 120 miles east of Boise.
The attack followed months of racist abuse directed at the victim from his white teammates, according to a lawsuit the boy's parents filed against the school.
The victim "was taunted and called racist names by other members of the team which names included ‘Kool-Aid’ ‘chicken eater’ ‘watermelon’ and [the N-word],” the lawsuit says.
Howard and Ward had also given the victim a "power wedgie," which left him with ripped underwear, according to The Washington Post. Howard -- who grew up in Texas -- allegedly forced the victim to sing a song called the “Notorious KKK," which he learned in his home state, court documents say.
The lawsuit against the school also faults faculty there, who are accused of permitting the abuse and in some cases promoting it. The suit names 11 faculty members who allegedly did nothing to protect the mentally disabled boy.
Both the victim and a witness were subject to at times "hostile" questioning by Ward's attorney, Michael J. Wood, during the suspect's preliminary hearing in April. The witness was another teammate who did not participate in the attacks.
The victim's parents looked "anguished" as their son testified, according to MagicValley.com, but afterward told a reporter they were proud of their son for his courage.
Ward has pleaded not guilty, and is scheduled for trial beginning on Sept. 26. Howard has not yet entered a plea, and has a preliminary hearing set for June 10.