Prosecutor Will Not File Charges In De La Salle Broomstick Case Despite Confidence 'Criminal Incident Did Occur'

The prosecutor says "charges cannot be sustained at this time."

WWJ News
January 28, 2020 - 4:43 pm

photo: WWJ/Charlie Langton

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(WWJ) -- The St. Clair County Prosecutor will not file charges in connection with the Warren De La Salle football hazing scandal.

The school abruptly ended the team's football season just before the MHSAA state playoffs were set to start back in October after allegations of hazing in the locker room surfaced. After investigating, the Warren Police Department said they discovered multiple football players used broomsticks in a sexual manner. Police said there was no penetration involved in the incident.

Warren police had asked the Macomb County Prosecutor's Office to file assault charges against three teens connected to the hazing, but the case was later handed over to St. Clair County Prosecutor Michael Wendling.

"In reviewing the viability of criminal charges and prosecution, it is our duty to make a determination based on information provided by the investigating department. In addition to the police investigation, my office has conducted an extensive independent examination of this incident that included re-contacting and re-interviewing witnesses; attempting to speak with all known victims; contacting school administrative and coaching staff on multiple occasions, and attempting to gain access to all evidence and reports held by the De La Salle administrative staff," Wendling's office said in a statement.

The prosecutor says "charges cannot be sustained at this time."

"While we are confident that a criminal incident did occur, we do not have admissible evidence to move forward with prosecution. The lack of evidence is the result of multiple circumstances that are beyond our control. By the time the Warren Police Department had been contacted in relation to this incident important evidence had already been lost or destroyed," the statement said.

Police previously said they conducted nearly 90 interviews of De La Salle football players and coaches, and 18 refused to cooperate in the investigation.

The prosecutor notes that Warren police were not contacted until after the school had conducted an internal investigation. Documents and reports created during the school's own independent investigation have been withheld by administrative staff at advice of legal counsel, according to the prosecutor.

De La Salle officials did not return requests for comment from WWJ.

Three students who were involved in the hazing investigation filed a lawsuit in December, claiming they were racially discriminated against. The lawsuit noted of all the students initially implicated in the hazing investigation, the only three that were minorities were suspended from school. The students who were suspended have since returned to school.

The majority of the coaching staff declined to speak with police, upon the advice of counsel, Wendling's office said.

"While all three suspects share one attorney, multiple attorneys represent the school and staff. Moreover, staff meetings and board meetings where the incident and discipline of these students/suspects was addressed were not open to the general public and no minutes or discussion notes have been provided," the statement said. "The non-cooperation from De La Salle staff is especially upsetting considering that they are the people who have an obligation to protect these children and are mandated to report any misconduct."

Warren Police Commissioner Bill Dwyer echoed Wendling's sentiment in that De La Salle administrators dropped the ball on the case. He called their handling on the case "disappointing" and says the administration has lost all trust.

"I've said from the offset, as far as once we started the investigation, that it was tainted and that they waited several days before they turned over the investigation to us. They had interviewed a number of the players and other people involved. They put roadblocks up from day one," Dwyer said.

The victims and their families did not provide sufficient information for charges.

The Pilots, winners of two straight Division 2 state championships at the time, were scheduled to play Birmingham Groves in the first round of the playoffs on Nov. 1, but the school announced they were forfeiting the game after hazing allegations arose, which they said were "more pervasive than originally thought."

Head football coach Mike Giannone was fired in the wake of the scandal.

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