Idaho Deputy Attorney General Casey Hemmer, who is prosecuting John R.K. Howard, 19, a former football player for Dietrich High School, for the alleged rape of a mentally challenged teammate in 2015, has angered both the victim’s family and the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence.
Howard was originally charged with forcible sexual penetration by use of a foreign object in the locker room assault, but Hemmer has agreed to a plea deal that allows Howard to submit an Alford plea to the reduced count of felony injury to a child. The plea deal between the prosecution and the defense includes a sentencing recommendation of two to three years of probation and 300 hours of community service for Howard, scheduled to be sentenced in February 24, 2017. Howard would be allowed to serve his sentence in Texas, where he now resides.
Had Howard’s case gone to trial, he faced the possible sentence of life in prison.
Sexual Assault on Mentally Challenged Teammate – The Crime
Antwon McDaniel, 18, one of only the one or two black students at Dietrich High School in the small town of Dietrich, Idaho – population less than 350 people – reported that three of his white football teammates lured him into the locker room by saying they wanted to give him a hug. Instead, Tanner Ward, 17, one of the three other teens, pushed a coat hanger into the victim’s anus, after which McDaniel testified that Howard kicked the inserted coat hanger five or six times.
Ward pleaded guilty to his part in the assault in juvenile court and another unidentified teenager who was present during the assault is also facing charges in juvenile court.
Deputy Attorney General Casey Hemmer Discounts Charges of Racial Motivation, Sex Crime
In most cases, plea deals are arranged after conferring with the victim or the victim’s family. Hemmer did neither; the teen victim is currently institutionalized and unable to make such decisions for himself, and in lieu of that, his parents were not a party to the plea arrangement offerings on their son’s behalf.
Even though Hemmer had characterized the assault as “egregious” and something that caused the victim a lot of suffering, when asked by the judge in the Howard case whether the assault was racially motivated Hemmer answered:
“Your honor, based on what we’ve had, no. 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.”
Sounding more like a defense attorney than the prosecuting attorney, Hemmer also said that the assault on McDaniel was not a sex crime and that Howard did not need to be treated as a sexual offender.
Attorneys for Victim’s and Sexual Violence Coalition React to Idaho Prosecutor Casey Hemmer
R Keith Roark, an attorney representing Antwon McDaniel in a civil suit against Dietrich High School and school officials, said:
“The plea agreement is an abomination, and the in-court comments of the prosecutor, if accurately reported, reflect a perverse compassion for the perpetrator of a sickening, violent act rather than a concern for the young man whose life has been turned upside down by group violence – which we believe was indeed, at least in part, racially motivated.
“How this can be anything other than a sexual assault is beyond my comprehension, and I have been prosecuting and defending sex crimes for 40 years.”
The Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence said of the plea deal and Hemmer’s remarks,
“Deputy Attorney General Hemmer’s actions and statements dehumanizes the young man who was heinously penetrated and fuels and sanctions our culture of sexism, racism, able-ism, domination, aggression, and violence, and in turn, the Office of the Idaho Attorney General is complicit in state-sanctioned sexism, racism, able-ism and violence.
“Nothing short of a complete retraction by the Attorney General of Hemmer’s outrageous actions and statements and immediate action against Hemmer will be acceptable.”
Meanwhile, there are others who are upset with the plea deal and subsequent comments by the Idaho Deputy Attorney General, enough that a petition for Hemmer’s recall has been initiated at change.org.
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