DIETRICH — John R.K. Howard, the 18-year-old Dietrich High School football player charged in an alleged locker room sexual assault of a black, mentally disabled teammate, has waived his right to a preliminary hearing, which was set for Friday.
Howard, of Keller, Texas, is charged with a felony count of forcible penetration with a foreign object and accused of kicking the hanger into his teammate’s rectum after his co-defendant, 17-year-old Tanner Ward, used the hanger to attack the boy.
Ward’s case was bound over to Lincoln County District Court in April after a preliminary hearing in which the alleged victim and a witness testified. Howard was set for a preliminary hearing Friday after it was delayed several times, but he waived his right to the hearing Thursday and will be bound over to district court; a hearing date for an arraignment in the upper court has not yet been set.
Howard’s attorney, Brad Calbo, declined comment Friday.
Howard and Ward are charged as adults for the alleged Oct. 22 attack. Another teen is charged as a juvenile and accused of luring the victim into a hug before Ward and Tanner attacked. The juvenile’s case is completely sealed, while parts of Howard and Ward’s cases are sealed.
It was at Ward’s preliminary hearing April 22 that details of the alleged attack first emerged. The victim testified that the two teens began harassing him before practice, and in the locker room after practice, the boy charged as a juvenile asked for a hug. When the victim gave him the hug, the boy signaled for Ward and Howard to attack.
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“I screamed,” the victim testified in April. “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.”
A civil suit filed by the victim seeking $10 million from the school district, school administrators and football coaches alleges the sexual assault was a culmination of months of racial abuse suffered at the hands of Howard, Ward and other football players. The suit alleges that school administrators and football coaches were aware of the abuse or should have been aware.
The school district and those named in the suit denied the allegations.
A trial date has not been set in the civil lawsuit, though the sides recently agreed to deadlines for gathering evidence and finalizing witness lists.
In the criminal cases, Howard will likely be arraigned in district court sometime in August, while Ward is set for a jury trial Sep. 21, with a pretrial conference scheduled for Sep. 7 and jury selection set for Sep. 14.