Six Philomath High School varsity football players and one coach were cited Monday in connection with “aggravated hazing” incidents in July at Camp Rilea in Warrenton, Benton County District Attorney John Haroldson said.
Volunteer assistant coach and former player Cooper Kikuta, 22, has been cited on a charge of second-degree criminal mistreatment, a misdemeanor, and is set to appear in Clatsop County Circuit Court.
The Benton County District Attorney’s Office is set to file juvenile delinquency petitions in Benton County Juvenile Court for all six students cited, with arraignments scheduled for Friday.
The six teenagers have been cited on charges that, if committed by adults, would constitute the crimes of harassment and assault. All the harassment or attempted harassment charges involve “offensive physical contact with intimate parts,” Haroldson said, adding that the charges are either Class A or Class B misdemeanors.
He said the incidents involved at least 11 alleged victims, all freshmen.
Attempted harassment is a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a maximum sentence of six months in detention. The charges of harassment, fourth-degree assault and second-degree criminal mistreatment are all Class A misdemeanors, which carry a sentence of up to one year in detention.
Haroldson said the assault and harassment charges involve allegations “wherein underclassmen’s intimate areas were aggressively targeted as a form of initiation.”
“The charges involve contact with the anus or anal area (or) aggressive contact with the testicles,” he said, adding that one of the alleged victims was involved in two incidents in which he was grabbed and held down.
A total of 35 Philomath players participated in a summer camp at Camp Rilea near Warrenton in July.
In juvenile proceedings, jurisdiction for the youths lies in either the county where the youth resides or the county in which the alleged act was committed. In this case, Haroldson said all suspects, witnesses and victims live in Benton County. After conferring with Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis, Haroldson said they agreed that the Benton County District Attorney’s Office would file the juvenile delinquency petitions in Benton County Juvenile Court.
The Benton County District Attorney’s Office will serve as special prosecutor in the case filed against Kikuta, although that case is scheduled to be heard in Clatsop County Circuit Court.
Kikuta is accused of having “assumed responsibility for the supervision of the players and withholding necessary and adequate physical care for those who were targeted in his presence,” Haroldson said.
“One of the critical points here is ensuring that we’re not continuing to have hazing in this football program,” Haroldson said. “It ends now.”
Additional charges may be coming in the case, Haroldson said. “At the end of the day, parents should be able to count on their kids going to school, or going to school programs, without having to be violated in their most intimate parts,” Haroldson said. “And that goes to the issue of supervision.”
In a statement issued after Haroldson’s announcement, Melissa Goff, the superintendent of the Philomath School District, said the district “will take appropriate actions toward coaching staff and students where justified and continue the healing process for affected students and their families.”
“We condemn all forms of hazing, harassment, and physical, mental, or emotional abuse,” the statement said.
“Our first priority at all times is the safety of our students,” Goff said in the statement. “We take hazing and bullying issues very seriously, and we have no tolerance whatsoever for the type of allegations raised in this investigation.”
The district has canceled its first three football games, through Sept. 16. District officials say they are continuing to assess if, or when, the varsity team will begin competing.