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The Independence County prosecutor has brought misdemeanor hazing charges in juvenile court against six Missouri teens over an incident at the camp, which ran June 10-13.
The teens are all from the East Carter County, Mo., School District, based in Ellsinore in southeastern Missouri. The 22 East Carter players who attended the camp received instruction from Lyon coaches and stayed in Lyon dorms. East Carter varsity coach Ben Stahl was also in attendance. The dorms were staffed by coaches, including Stahl, and Lyon undergraduate counselors.
According to police reports filed by East Carter parents, several older East Carter players at the camp assaulted some of the younger players by sodomizing them with pine cones.
In August, Deputy Prosecutor Daniel Brightwell filed charges in juvenile court, where proceedings are confidential, against six East Carter boys. At a closed-door hearing Sept. 10, the six pleaded innocent. If the boys are adjudicated delinquent, their sentence could range from probation to time at the Division of Youth Services in Alexander.
Some East Carter residents have expressed concern about the delay between the incident reports and the filing of charges. About six weeks passed from the time East Carter parents consulted an attorney and the time charges were filed.
One East Carter parent who filed a report in connection with the case told the Arkansas Times, “It got to the point where [the Independence prosecutor's office] didn't want to talk to us. They don't need to shove us behind — our kids are victims.”
Independence Prosecuting Attorney Don McSpadden said that he took daily calls from East Carter parents when the investigation began, but that he had too many cases to continue to talk with them each day. In response to the suggestions of foot-dragging, he said that reports came in stages from the sheriff's criminal investigation division, and that he wanted to make sure he didn't have a felony case before filing juvenile charges.
Parents in East Carter have also questioned why the case was filed as a misdemeanor hazing charge in juvenile court rather than as a felony sexual assault. McSpadden said that, based on sheriff's reports and a cell-phone video of one incident recorded by an East Carter camper, he didn't have enough evidence to bring the case as a felony. He said that the cell-phone video didn't show penetration, and that there was no sexual gratification involved. Arkansas law defines sexual gratification as a necessary condition of sexual assault.
On the civil end, 11 camp attendees have filed a lawsuit in Missouri's 37th Circuit Court against Lyon College, Lyon College basketball coach Kevin Jenkins, the East Carter School District, superintendent Tim Hager, and varsity coach Stahl. Among other claims, the suit asserts that the defendants failed to provide proper supervision at the camp and that Stahl threatened reduced playing time during the season for non-attendees.
The East Carter students were among some 80 students attending the basketball camp, which Lyon College has operated for 22 years.
Stahl resigned as varsity coach around the end of June and could not be reached. A spokesman for Lyon College cited pending litigation and declined to comment on the suit.
Hager said that the East Carter district provided a bus for the players to travel to Batesville, but that the East Carter basketball team did not require attendance at the camp. He also said that the district has suspended the alleged assailants.
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