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Dietrich School District Case

On November 12, 2015, the state District Court in Lincoln County appointed the Attorney General as the special prosecutor concerning events that occurred in the Dietrich School District. You can read the Order for Appointment of Special Prosecutor, the investigative document and other documents here. http://www.ag.idaho.gov/dietrichInvestigationRecords/index.html.

This is a sad and disturbing case that is quite graphic. If you are sensitive, it may not be best to read about this case.

A number of Dietrich High School football players assaulted a teammate. The victim was a young African American boy who was also particularly vulnerable because he suffered from mental and emotional challenges.

In October 2015, one of the perpetrators struck the victim with a coat hanger that lodged in the victim’s buttocks. Another team member, sitting on a locker room bench, then kicked his foot and struck the hanger into the victim’s rectum. A third perpetrator had also engaged in other assaultive behavior.

Two of the perpetrators were under the age of majority at the time of the assault and their cases were handled under the Juvenile Corrections Act (Title 20, Chapter 5, Idaho Code). Those proceedings are closed pursuant to law and it is not appropriate for me to discuss those matters further. See Idaho Code § 20-525.

The third perpetrator, John R. K. Howard, was an adult at the time of the offense and was originally charged with the felony crime of Forcible Penetration by use of a Foreign Object under Idaho Code § 18-6608. However, based on a negotiated plea the charge was amended to the felony crime of Injury to a child under Idaho Code § 18-1501. The provable evidence in the case did not sustain the original charge, nor did it sustain a charge of Malicious Harassment under Idaho Code § 18-7902. The provable charge was Felony Injury to a Child.

There was a great deal of graphic publicity concerning this case. However, much of that information came from the civil case filed by the victim’s family against the school district. The media did not draw the distinction between the civil case and the criminal case and my office only handled the criminal case. The state District Judge in the criminal case entered a gag order precluding us from talking to the media. As a result, much of the publicity was based on the unproven allegations in the federal civil complaint.   That led to a great deal of public confusion and press misinformation about the case.

The defendant pled guilty to Felony Injury to a Child but was not sentenced to any jail time. The state retained significant monitoring authority over the defendant, and based on a number of external factors, including the vulnerability of the victim, this was the only viable option.