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Pa. high school football players settle "No Gay Thursday" hazing case

BERWYN, Pa. -- Three suburban Philadelphia high school football players have pleaded guilty to a lesser charge to settle initial accusations that they penetrated a freshman player with a broom handle on what the team called “No Gay Thursday.”

Tuesday’s statement by Chester County District Attorney Thomas Hogan and attorneys for the three Conestoga High School seniors said the 14-year-old freshman “did not suffer any physical injury” in the October 2015 encounter, though one of the seniors “briefly poked the victim with a broom stick in the leg.” 

“The intent of the charged juveniles was to scare the victim and coerce him to cooperate with other team members in the joint cleanup of the locker room, and not to do the victim any physical harm,” the statement reads, CBS Philly reported. “The victim did not suffer any physical injury, and reported the incident to his father months later, after the victim was charged with a juvenile offense.”

That description was in stark contrast to Hogan’s characterization of it in March, when charges including assault, conspiracy, unlawful restraint and terroristic threats were announced against the 17-year-olds at the school in Berwyn, about 25 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

At that time, Hogan announced that the victim had been penetrated with the broom handle while he screamed. He said upperclassmen had told younger players to strip to their underwear and clean the team locker room, and the victim had tried to leave, Hogan said.

No sexual assault charges were filed because the penetration wasn’t done for sexual gratification, Hogan explained then.

The victim reported to his father months later what had happened after he was charged with an unspecified juvenile offense, according to the joint statement issued by Hogan and the defense attorneys.

The three seniors pleaded guilty to summary harassment, but the statement doesn’t say how they were punished. A summary offense is a citation, much like a traffic ticket.

The victim, the DA and the seniors “are in full agreement with this disposition,” the statement said.

“Because this case is a juvenile matter, all the records are sealed and the parties will not be making any further public comment,” the statement said.

Longtime head football coach John Vogan was initially suspended and then resigned in the wake of the criminal investigation, and the varsity and junior varsity staff members were relieved of their duties through the football season.

Hogan previously said the seniors were rankled because the 14-year-old was arrogant about making the varsity team.

“No Gay Thursdays” was a tradition started by the football team at least three or four years ago in which behavior the team normally considered to be “gay” was considered “not gay” on Thursdays, Hogan told The Associated Press in March.

“It just happened to be a perfect storm of this ‘No Gay Thursday’ tradition and them not liking this freshman and taking it out on him in a pretty horrible way,” he said. 

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