hazing story, part five
It's a sad state of affairs when witnesses to abuse have to be implored to come forward.
"Please do not let a bunch of high school bullies intimidate you into letting extremely serious crimes go unpunished," said Mark Zimmer, district attorney in Wayne County, Pa., whose jurisdiction includes the camp where the alleged attacks took place.
I wonder, though, who the witnesses are more afraid of; the bullies on the football team or their parents.
It's nto a stretch to think that some of these parents are telling their kids to keep quiet. Reputations to keep, scholarships to think of and all that.
Zimmer, in a news conference at the county courthouse in Honesdale, said he has been frustrated by the lack of cooperation from witnesses and the reluctance of Bellmore-Merrick school officials to turn over their information on the alleged attacks without a subpoena. School officials have said they were acting upon the advice of their lawyer.
So the school, in all the past articles on the subject, claims to be horrified and outraged at what went on at the football camp, but now they are holding back on cooperating. The bare truth strikes fear into the hearts of adminstrators.
Zimmer said police have interviewed some witnesses, but would not say how many. With more cooperation, he said, "I think I would be a lot closer to telling you that the investigation would be completed at the very least."
Once again we are left to wonder just who is being protected here. It's certainly not the victims; if anyone cared about them at all, the interviews with police would have been done immediately. Surely witnesses, parents and people who had just heard rumors would be swarming outside the door of the Pennsylvania police if anyone had taken the victims into account.
But no, we have a community shrouded in silence, upstanding citizens of suburbia forming a tight circle in order to protect criminals. And why? Because, as Zimmer says:
"all the information available to make me comfortable that ... the crimes charged have been committed and ... that I can convict."
Just imagine those poor football players having criminal charges lodged against them. Imagine them in court. Imagine them being tried and convicted. Good-bye scholarship. Good-bye Big Ten college. Good-bye to daddy's dreams of placing his son's football trophies on the mantle. What middle class, suburban, white collar family wants to hang an arrest warrant in a frame next to the Athlete of the Year award?
There is at least one sane parent:
"I've put my neck out and now I need other people to step up," said the woman, who did not want to be identified. "I can't understand any reason for someone not to cooperate. The police are not looking to arrest or prosecute their children. They're just looking to do the right thing."
Odds are ten to one that she will be an outcast at the next PTA meeting.
Several students interviewed Monday say peer pressure and fear of retribution is what is keeping many players from telling what they know.
"The other football players will be ... if people tell," said one 16-year-old junior. "I'd be afraid ... it could be their friends going to jail."
Ah, the old climate of fear. Yea, these players must be some real upstanding scholars and athletes. Real pride of the parents.
Among the charges the three accused players could face are a slew of first-degree felonies, including involuntary deviant sexual intercourse, aggravated assault and kidnapping, Zimmer said. The prosecutor is also considering lesser charges, including unlawful restraint, false imprisonment and conspiracy.
All those charges, all those heinous crimes, and no one wants to come forward and talk about it to the police. Not even the parents. Football scholarships should be the least of their worries now. If anyone from that school grows a pair of balls, those kids will be watching college football from the rec room of a county jail instead of the sidelines.
Please someone, do the right thing. You will live with your conscience so much easier in the years to come.