The three upperclassmen boys who committed the rapes as part of a wrestling team hazing ritual plea bargained down to misdemeanors and were only prosecuted at all because the event took place in Denver rather than on the Western Slope.
No joke. People in small town America have a lot of really perverse and hateful morals that Norwood, Colorado typifies. It is hard to express just how evil the people of Norwood are in words. Jocks who commit crimes are evil squared. These boys deserved several years in prison each. I don't want monsters like these boys walking my streets.
Even more disturbing is that the adult coach for the team, Robert Harris, knew that two of his sons were involved and dismissed his sons' acts as acceptable conduct:
Two of the attackers were sons of Robert Harris, the wrestling coach, who was president of the school board. . . .
In February 2012, the boy [who was attacked] rode the bus to Denver as the team manager, in charge of videotaping the older high school students at the meet. After the coaches and wrestlers left the bus to weigh in, three older and bigger boys pinned the younger boy down, bound him with the tape, pulled down his pants and assaulted him, according to the principal. His parents were at a hotel, awaiting the start of the meet. . . .
Just before the meet started, the principal's older son heard the attackers laughing about the assault on his brother and told his father.
"I was shocked beyond belief, and I was mad," the father said. "I do believe I was madder than I have ever been. You're trying to protect your kids, and then something like this happens."
The father sought out his son, who told him what had happened. He then confronted Harris, the head coach, who at first said nothing had occurred, according to the father. In subsequent conversations, Harris said: "This happens 1,000 times a day around the U.S.," the principal recalled.According to the source story at Bloomberg:
[O]ne of the accused students pleaded guilty to sexual contact without consent; the other two pleaded guilty to third-degree assault. They received varied sentences that included probation, community service and restitution of about $2,500 apiece.
The principal’s contract was up for renewal. After extensive negotiations involving lawyers from both sides, the board renewed his contract and put him on paid leave while it reached a settlement.
The principal was offered another job in a town 200 miles away that pays half his previous salary. The family moved and he enrolled his children in a new school.
Harris was reappointed Norwood’s wrestling coach. He was given a letter of reprimand for leaving students unsupervised on the bus, Crews told police.Apparently, however, at some point, Bobby Harris was replaced by Dirk Hardman as the head coach for the school's team.
The Daniels Fund awarded a scholarship to Brent Robert Harris in 2012, which was announced the same week that two of his younger brothers were arrested in Denver, charged with multiple serious felonies, and then freed on a $25,000 bond each. He went on to attend the Colorado School of Mines.
Earlier this year, Talon Harris, another of the four sons, who was one of the rapists (consistent with the TTH t-shirt language for the shirts made to support the rapists "TTH being the first initials of the three rapists" also here), was back at the state wrestling competition at the scene of the crime from the previous year, near Pepsi Center again and came in third place statewide in division 2A.
A couple of months later his brother Hayden Harris, also one of the rapists, won a third place finish in a different state competition on behalf of the "Norwood Wrestling Club". Hayden appears to be the one who pleaded guilty to the sex offense as opposed to the third degree assault charge and may have deserved this status, although we may never know if that was what really happened. He may have claimed the most culpability when it became clear that charges would be pressed, because as the youngest of the three rapists he faced the least serious consequences if convicted of all charges.
Why Harris, Sr. (he goes by "Bobby" rather than Robert; picture on page three) wasn't charged with crimes like failing to report child abuse himself and removed as a coach is a mystery (he resigned from the school board a few days after the charges were filed by the Denver District Attorney's office). He is a true monster who is just half a step removed from the pedophiles who make child pornography. In any sane community, he would be utterly disgraced and run out of town with his rapist sons, and Harris Construction, the business of which he is a proprietor, would wither. But, that isn't what people do in Norwood. (A report on his race for the school board position in 2007 is reported here and provides some background information on the adults involved in this incident.)
Also high on the list of Norwood monsters is Jessica Bicknase, the mother of the third rapist, who made t-shirts supporting the boys instead of taking her son to the woodshed. Presumably, Timothy Armintrout, the third rapist (as reported by Grand Junction, Colorado's KREX Channel 5 and by Denver's KDVR Fox 31), is her son. Mr. Armintrout was also back at the scene of the crime outside the Pepsi Center earlier this year competing in the state finals for division 2A wrestling with Norwood wrestling teammate and fellow rapist Talon Harris. Their pictures can be found here.
(It probably bears mentioning that I believe that the secrecy imposed on juvenile justice proceedings is a very bad policy that harms the public in multiple ways. The potential future victims of these three rapists need to know to be afraid of them if they encounter them in the future. These perpetrators in particular, having escaped a criminal justice punishment commensurate with their very serious forcible rape crimes, also clearly deserve, at the very least, to have their reputations tarnished for the rest of their lives as a result of their actions. It is appalling that their conditions of probation have not even required each of them to give up wrestling competitions, given the circumstances. The leniency afforded to these three boys and their father and the school superintendent in this case is stunning.)
David Crews who is the superintendent of schools and imposed a mere one day, in school suspension on the boys that didn't take the conduct seriously, also deserves serious scorn (although the fact that two of the boys were the children of his boss didn't make it easy for him to do the right thing).
Harris, Crews and the school district all ought to be sued for civil rights violations, at the very least. David Crews is still the superintendent of schools despite committing a serious crime when he failed to report this incident to the police, but Harris is no longer on the board of the Norwood Public Schools whose mission statement, ironically is to "provide a safe learning environment and build respectful individuals", something that the district clearly isn't anywhere near achieving.
It isn't clear if CHSAA, the governing body of high school sports in the state, took any action in response to this incident. The incident wasn't mentioned in either of the reports prepared by their wrestling division after the state championship that year, although in fairness, the incident may not yet have been reported to anyone at CHSAA at the time.
This isn't just an anomaly. It's Western Slope culture. Consider this story from a year and a half ago from the judicial district that includes Norwood:
The man who was the Republican District Attorney for the 7th Judicial District in Colorado (Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Montrose, Ouray and San Miguel counties, basically the Western Slope to the south of Grand Junction and North of Silverton) when he was arrested in September 2010, Myrl Serra, has pleaded guilty to "criminal extortion and unlawful sexual contact involving three women," felonies punishable by up to twelve years in prison and requiring registration on the sex offender's registry. Sentencing is set for January 19, 2012.
The criminal extortion charges allege that he demanded "sexual favors from women in his office." The sexual contact charges were supported by preliminary hearing testimony in which "one of the women testified that Serra cornered her inside his office in April 2010, grabbed one of her breasts and forced her to touch his genitals."These kinds of Western Slope values (and similar ones about mixed race families and children) are the reason that my wife and I moved from Grand Junction to Denver in 1999 after having lived there for three years, and we have never regretted it.
If I had stayed at the firm where I worked at the time in Grand Junction, I probably would have been on the defense team defending these creeps if they had been sued, since we handled Western Slope claims for the governmental equivalent of an insurance defense funds for local governments in that territory. We were defending litigation involving a similar, but far less egregious case involving conservative, small town Western slope perverts in public office while I was working there.
Incidentally, Telluride's paper reported the story in May of 2012 (via Randy Cassingham's blog). Some of the details added in his account are that:
Despite legal requirements to report the incident, the school's superintendent admits officials did not do so; the boy's parents called police when he got home and told them what happened. With that, the three boys were suspended from school — for one day. School officials also "discussed" whether the victim should have been suspended too. . . .
In an editorial titled Do the Right Thing, the Telluride Watch newspaper noted that "it is widely acknowledged that similar incidents, clearly crossing any reasonable line, have occurred in Norwood in the recent past, making it impossible to shrug this one off -- extreme as it evidently was -- as an isolated incident."
I call that escalation. When school officials didn't do anything about it, they tacitly agreed with what was going on -- and naturally it got worse.
But here's where it gets really ugly. The CBS station in Denver reported (and the Watch reprinted, here), that the alleged victim's father is a school official. Worse, Norwood School Board President Robert Harris doubles as head wrestling coach at Norwood schools, and has four sons on the team!
In the same story, the paper notes that at a meeting to discuss the case, 70 people showed up, and "The crowd seemed to be separated by an unseen cultural divide wider than Gurley Gulch, which separates the Hitchin’ Post from Two Candles, Norwood eating and drinking establishments patronized by conservative and liberal members of the community, respectively." . . .
The newspaper reports (here) that "A receptionist for Norwood School District attorney Darryl Farrington was instructed to not put a reporter's message through to his voicemail," and that "In addition to Norwood, Farrington lists Telluride, Ridgway and Ouray districts among his clients."At the time, the CBS news report noted that this was considered normal in Norwood's sports programs (something also confirmed by the Telluride newspaper):
“After the incident at State Wrestling, we are now hearing about a number of other “taping incidents” from past years- a possible culture of hazing. The district is now investigation the new claims that have bubbled up,” said Dave Crews in a statement.A Western Slope NBC affiliate reported on the surreal parents meeting held at the school on the day that the DA charged the Norwood rapists. It's hard to believe how many really bad parents can be concentrated into a town that has a population of under five hundred. Denver Post affiliate 9News also reported on the story.
Prior to this incident, the Norwood Public Schools were mostly known for another act of small minded and backward small town ignorance in a 2005 book banning incident by previous superintendent Bob Conder (confirmed here by a TV news station)
But, the Denver Post didn't think it was newsworthy until Bloomberg picked it up and never did any reporting of their own, even though the Denver police prosecuted the case in the Denver courts, and the story was covered by more than one Denver TV station. As the Bloomberg story illustrates, it is amazing how much of a story can be developed from a little headline if you make the effort to sleuth out enough of the facts.