An Idaho high school football player who was facing charges of sexually assaulting a special needs student with a coat hanger will not serve any prison time as part of a plea deal.
John R.K. Howard, 18, was initially charged with “forcible sexual penetration by use of a foreign object” after he and two other players allegedly assaulted the 18-year-old victim in the Dietrich High School locker room in Oct 2015.
Howard agreed to plead guilty to one count of felony injury to a child Friday, according to reports.
Now, instead of facing life in prison, he will be sentenced to two to three years of probation and 300 hours of community service.
The plea that Howard submitted allows him to maintain his innocence while acknowledging he would have most likely been found guilty had he gone to trial.
According to reports, he could have his conviction dismissed altogether if he completes his sentence without violating probation or committing any other crimes.
In May 2016, the victim, who is black, told police he was lured into the locker room by his teammates, who are all white, after they said they wanted to give him a hug.
Another football player who was inside of the locker room reportedly shoved a coat hanger into the victim's anus. The victim said Howard then kicked the hanger “five or six times.”
The two other football players involved are being tried in juvenile court.
The victim’s family was deeply angered by the deal, according to their attorney, R. Keith Roark.
“It’s absolutely preposterous that this kid should walk away with apparently no punishment whatsoever,” Roark said in a Monday afternoon interview. “Everyone is more concerned with these young sociopaths than the victim of their violence.”
Howard’s family has also filed a $10 million lawsuit against the high school, citing a history of racist abuse and bullying against the teen.