Friday 23 August 2019

White High School football player who 'sexually assaulted' black mentally disabled teammate won’t face jail

John Howard pleads guilty to a count of injury to a child, a lesser charge than he was originally handed of forcible sexual penetration

John Howard and Tanner Ward
John Howard and Tanner Ward

Shehab Khan

A white high school football player who allegedly sexually assaulted a black, mentally disabled teammate won’t face prison time.

John Howard, a 19-year-old from Idaho, pleaded guilty to a count of injury to a child, a lesser charge than he was originally handed of forcible sexual penetration, after he abused the victim with a coat hanger.

Howard, who was one of three attackers, will avoid prison time and could have his conviction dismissed if he completes a two to three year probation period without committing any crimes, according to MagicValley.com.

He has been ordered to serve 300 hours of community service in addition to his probation and any violation during the period could lead to 10 years in prison along with a fine of up to $50,000 (€38,277).

Tanner Ward. Picture: Facebook
Tanner Ward. Picture: Facebook

Another one of the attackers, 17-year-old Tanner Ward, had his adult felony charges dismissed as a result of a plea deal but still faced one juvenile charge. The third teen was charged completely as a juvenile.

Investigations found Ward abused the victim using a hanger.

Deputy Attorney General Casey Hemmer told District Judge Randy Stoker that Howard's actions were "egregious" and caused "a lot of suffering" for the victim." But he denied there were racist undertones.

"It’s not our belief that this was a racially motivated crime. This was more of a vulnerable-victim motivated crime.

John Howard. Picture: Tarrant County Jail
John Howard. Picture: Tarrant County Jail

“I think it probably would have happened to anybody that was in the same kind of circumstances and mental state as the victim here," Mr Hermer said.

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