A pair of white high school football players in Idaho have been accused of raping a black, disabled teammate with a coat hanger. Court documents in a $10 million lawsuit filed by the victim’s family show that John R.K. Howard, 18, has been charged in the small town of Dietrich with the heinous crime. Howard, whose uncle is the high school’s beloved basketball coach, was sent to Idaho from Keller, Texas, to live with family members because of behavioral issues, according to the lawsuit.
Another of his teammates, Tanner Ward, has also been charged as an adult in the case. Ward is still attending the school and Howard has moved back to Texas.
The victim, an African-American student who was adopted by a white family in the overwhelmingly white town of Dietrich, suffers from mental disabilities. His parents have adopted “many” children during their marriage, according to court documents.
According to Idaho law, Howard and Ward could face life in prison. A third football player, a 16-year-old, has been charged as a juvenile and has not been named.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Bullies Allegedly Pretended They Were Going to Hug the Victim but Instead Bent Him Over & Inserted a Coat Hanger in His Rectum
According to documents in the lawsuit being brought against the school district by his family, the victim was allegedly taught a racist song by Howard titled, “Notorious KKK.” The song, which you can hear above, although discretion is advised, is set to the beat of the Notorious B.I.G. song “Hypnotize.”
The KKK version, by an artist known as Moon Man, contains the lyrics:
Moon man, Moon man, can’t you see
S***s and ni**ers need to hang from trees
And I just love your racist ways
I guess that’s why their mom is black and you’re so great
The other humiliations suffered by the victim included wedgies and being stripped of his clothes while on a team trip, the lawsuit alleges. In one instance, a drawing on a school chalkboard showed a school bus with the victim depicted as sitting at the back, the lawsuit claims:
This abuse culminated in an incident in October 2015, when the victim, under the pretense of receiving a hug from a teammate, was bent over and had a coat hanger inserted in his rectum, according to court documents. The teammate who performed that action was allegedly Tanner Ward. The documents then say that Howard kicked the coat hanger up the victim’s rectum repeatedly.
The victim would later testify about the incident, reports MagicValley.com. He said:
I screamed. I was pretty upset. I felt really bad. A little bit betrayed and confused at the same time. It was terrible — a pain I’ve never felt.
MagicValley.com reports that the preliminary hearings in the case took place in April 2016.
During that hearing, Tanner Ward’s attorney requested that both Ward and the victim draw a diagram to reflect what happened in the locker room that day. The MagicValley.com report notes, “The tactic seemed to confuse both the victim and the witness, and Wood’s cross-examination of the witness turned hostile at times.”
The documents further state that in August 2015, the Dietrich High School football team went to a camp in a rural area of the town. At that camp, it’s alleged that members of the team were pitted against each other in boxing matches at night. During one alleged fight, the victim faced off against Howard.
The victim was wearing boxing gloves while Howard, who is said to have been much bigger than the victim, knocked the victim unconscious with his bare hands. The documents says that this was done amid “catcalls, taunts and racial epithets” from fellow football team members.
According to the lawsuit:
Mr. Howard is a large and aggressive male who had been sent to live with his relatives in Idaho due to his inability to keep out of trouble in Texas.
Mr. Howard is a relative of prominent individuals in the community and, at least in part due to his athletic ability and community connections, the Defendants ignored or were deliberately indifferent to the behavior of Mr. Howard which included aggression, taunting and bullying of The Plaintiff and other students in the District.
With deliberate indifference, the Defendants did nothing to curb the vicious acts of Mr. Howard who brought with him from Texas a culture of racial hatred towards the Plaintiff.
Howard is due in court in Idaho on June 10, reports MagicValley.com. The website also reports that he is finishing high school in Keller, Texas.
KMVT reports that Howard is due to graduate from high school on Friday, May 27.
MagicValley.com reported that Howard was first arrested in March in Texas after the Idaho Attorney General’s office had taken up the case. He was taken into custody in Tarrant County, Texas.
An unnamed 16-year-old football player was also arrested in the case, along with 17-year-old Tanner Ward.
The victim’s parents have filed a $10 million lawsuit against the district due to the bullying. In the lawsuit documents, it says that nothing was done to protect the victim who was suffering from “mental disorders including learning disabilities.”
In total, 11 different employees of Dietrich High School and the district are named in the lawsuit, including the superintendent, Benjamin Hardcastle, and football coach, Michael Torgerson.
Dietrich Superintendent Ben Hardcastle told MagicValley.com in March 2016 that the district was giving their “full support to the investigation.”
In that same report, MagicValley.com reports that the victim’s mother was praising the work of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and the Idaho Attorney General’s office.
An anonymous Dietrich resident told KMVT back in November 2015 after the allegations first emerged saying, “It’s been my experience that, nothing to this extreme, but things have happened in the past that have been taken care of internally and swept under the rug, so to speak, to protect their children.”
2. John Howard’s Uncle Is a Basketball Hero in Dietrich & His Story Was Detailed by ESPN
In the lawsuit filed by the victim’s parents, it mentions Howard’s “connections” in the Dietrich community. His uncle is Dietrich High School basketball coach Acey Shaw. According to his Facebook page, Shaw is married to Howard’s aunt, Jalyn. The couple’s daughter played on her father’s team also.
While Howard’s father, also named John, serves as Shaw’s assistant coach, reports MagicValley.com.
ESPN detailed Shaw’s struggles with a rare disease he contracted from his cows in 2015. You can watch the short documentary above.
The network notes that Shaw was in the process of leading his team to four consecutive state championships when he was struck down with Chlamydia pneumonia.
MagicValley.com reports that he got the condition when he inhaled cow placenta while he comforted a recently born calf.
3. The Victim’s Father Is a Science Teacher at Dietrich High School & Was Nearly Fired in 2013 for His Teaching of the Human Reproductive System
The victim’s adoptive father, Tim McDaniel, is a science teacher at Dietrich High School. In 2013, he attracted controversy for his teaching of the human reproductive system and for showing the movie An Inconvenient Truth, reported MagicValley.com in 2013.
The complaints against McDaniel were dropped in December 2013, according to a Facebook page dedicated to supporting his cause.
One parent, Kate Norman, told MagicValley.com, “As a parent, I want to be notified in advance that this content is going to be taught in class.” He was accused of telling inappropriate jokes, showing a picture of a person with genital herpes, and teaching the students about birth control methods.
In 2016, McDaniel told East Idaho News that he “couldn’t wait” to leave the town of Dietrich when he retires in 2021. He added that he no longer felt comfortable attending school events, including basketball games, since the accusations were made.
4. Tanner Ward Is a Star Football & Rodeo Star in Richfield, Idaho
The other student charged in the case is football player and rodeo star in the community of Richfield, Tanner Ward, reports MagicValley.com. According to his Twitter page, Ward has another year of high school left.
5. The Town of Dietrich Is More Than 90 Percent White
The 2010 U.S. Census says that the town of Dietrich is more than 90 percent white with just 3.3 percent of residents being African-American. In total, 332 people live in the town.
More than 66 percent of those who attend church in Lincoln County, where Dietrich is located are Mormon. Howard’s uncle identifies as a Mormon while Howard’s sister studied at the Mormon university, Brigham Young.
On his Facebook page, Howard says he’s originally from Washington state.