The white high school football player who is accused of kicking a wire coat-hanger up the rectum of a mentally impaired African-American teammate will see no jail time. Not only that, the charges against now 19-year-old John R.K. Howard were downgraded from forcible penetration by use of a foreign object to felony injury to a child. As reported on National Public Radio, Howard entered a so-called “Alford plea” last December, which means he maintains his innocence while acknowledging prosecutors could have won a conviction at trial. He was sentenced Friday to a three years of probation and 300 hours of community service.
At his sentencing Friday, district judge Randy J Stoker dismissed the racial and sexual overtones of the case as the work of “people from the east coast who have no idea what this case is about,” according to The Guardian newspaper. He went on to say “There’s nothing in this record that supports anything close to the sexual allegation against this young man” and that in his view "this is not a case about racial bias.” Despite Stoker’s assertion that if he thought the case was racially motivated, he would send Howard “straight to the Idaho penitentiary,” many are outraged by the seemingly light sentence. An online petition at change.org has garnered more than 160,000 signatures calling for Stoker’s removal from the bench.
The victim was one of the few African-Americans living in the small town of Dietrich, Idaho, whose population is just over 300. The victim claims he endured an extended period of racist bullying from coaches and teammates prior to the assault, and was regularly called such racial epithets as “n*****r,” “watermelon,” “fried chicken,” and “grape soda.” In October 2015, he alleges Howard and two other defendants held him and forced a wire coat-hanger between his buttocks, which Howard then kicked up his rectum, causing internal injuries. The cases of the two other defendants charged in the attack were settled in juvenile court, the results of which are sealed, according to the Times-News.
The victim’s family has filed a $10 million civil lawsuit against the school district, who they say were aware of the racist bullying and did nothing. Complications have arisen, after the victim’s coaches secretly tape-recorded him saying he made up the allegations of racism so his adoptive parents could sue. However, in a court deposition, the victim later said he was pressured into making those statements by teammates he considered his friends. At Friday’s sentencing, the victim’s mother said he had been suicidal since his “rape” and that the family left town after their dog was poisoned. The victim is currently living in an assisted living facility.
[Photo: Tarrant County]