BERWYN, Pa. â€” Three suburban Philadelphia high school football players have pleaded guilty to menacing a freshman player with a broom handle on what the team called “No Gay Thursday.”
The 14-year-old freshman did not suffer any physical injury when the players “briefly poked the victim with a broomstick in the leg,” according to a joint statement by Chester County District Attorney Thomas Hogan and attorneys for the three Conestoga High School seniors in announcing the agreement Tuesday.
That description of the October 2015 episode comes in stark contrast to Hogan’s characterization of it in March, when charges including assault, conspiracy, unlawful restraint and terroristic threats were announced against the 17-year-olds at the school in Berwyn, about 25 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
At that time, Hogan said the victim had been penetrated with the broom handle while he screamed. He said upperclassmen had told younger players to strip to their underwear and clean the team locker room, and the victim had tried to leave, Hogan said.
No sexual assault charges were filed because the penetration wasn’t done for sexual gratification, Hogan explained then.
The victim reported to his father months later what had happened after he was charged with an unspecified juvenile offence, according to the joint statement issued by Hogan and the defence attorneys.
The three seniors pleaded guilty to summary harassment, but the statement doesn’t say how they were punished. A summary offence is a citation, much like a traffic ticket.
The victim, the DA and the seniors “are in full agreement with this disposition,” the statement said.
“Because this case is a juvenile matter, all the records are sealed and the parties will not be making any further public comment,” the statement said.
Longtime head football coach John Vogan was initially suspended and then resigned in the wake of the criminal investigation, and the varsity and junior varsity staff members were relieved of their duties through the football season.
Hogan previously said the seniors were rankled because the 14-year-old was arrogant about making the varsity team.
“No Gay Thursdays” was a tradition started by the football team at least three or four years ago in which behaviour the team normally considered to be “gay” was considered “not gay” on Thursdays, Hogan told The Associated Press in March.
“It just happened to be a perfect storm of this ‘No Gay Thursday’ tradition and them not liking this freshman and taking it out on him in a pretty horrible way,” he said.
This story has been corrected to show the incident occurred in October 2015, not October 2016.
The Associated Press