2 high school wrestling team members in West Virginia are charged with sexual assault

Mar 27, 2024, 9:46 AM

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Two West Virginia minors are facing sexual assault and other charges following an alleged incident at a hotel involving members of a high school wrestling team, authorities say.

Raleigh County Sheriff James Canaday said the perpetrators are each facing two counts of second-degree sexual assault, unlawful restraint and conspiracy to commit a felony, according to a post on his office’s Facebook page. He said juvenile petitions were filed Tuesday regarding the charges, which stem from an ongoing investigation into an incident earlier this year in a hotel room in Raleigh County. The students attended Greenbrier West High School.

Raleigh County Prosecuting Attorney Ben Hatfield told The Associated Press on Wednesday that there are two victims, both of whom are minors, hence the two counts for each of the three charges. He said the crime is best characterized “as a completely avoidable situation that went so far beyond appropriateness” that it became violently criminal.

“This is a situation that I believe was intentional, that I believe was done with a lack of impulse control and that I believe needs to be punished,” Hatfield said.

He said at this early stage in the case, his office needs more information before deciding its desired course for pursuing punishment. Prosecutors will conduct their own investigation in addition to the sheriff’s department investigation. He said he knows what they did, now he needs to know why and whether it had ever happened before and to other students.

“I need to determine whether or not this was a single incident in the micro, or whether or not this was some kind of prevailing issue that’s going on,” he said.

No further information can be released at this time because the case involves children, officials said.

According to the West Virginia code, second-degree sexual assault is a felony punishable by a maximum of 25 years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. A person is guilty of second-degree sexual assault when he or she has forced someone into non-consensual sexual intercourse or performed sexual intercourse or sexual intrusion on “another person who is physically helpless.”

If the case progresses, a determination will be made by the court as to whether or not the juveniles should be tried as adults.

Both Raleigh County and Greenbrier County, which borders Virginia, are located in the southern portion of the state.

The Associated Press left messages on the Greenbrier County district office line Wednesday and emailed Greenbrier Board of Education President Jeanie Wyatt requesting comment.

Just last week, the Greenbrier County School Board met in a special session to accept the retirement of Superintendent Jeffrey Bryant and the resignation of Greenbrier West Principal Adam Young, The Register-Herald reported. The board met the same week news reports revealed a racist incident at Greenbrier West High School in which a Black female student was called the n-word in graffiti on a classroom wall.

Bryant’s last day as superintendent is scheduled to be Friday, the last day of spring break.

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2 high school wrestling team members in West Virginia are charged with sexual assault