KTVB news reported last night that all felony charges filed against five former Blackfoot high school football players have been dismissed, leaving only misdemeanor charges of battery. A few weeks ago the allegations gained international news status, and were discussed openly by national news programs and radio call in shows. Generally, the stories made it sound as if the school district and its staff – teachers and coaches alike – had all managed to fall asleep at the wheel, while student bullies molested and abused their team mates.
And now the charges have been dismissed. Why? Because there is little or no proof that anyone was sexually abused. So little proof that the deputy prosecutor who ran from the streets proclaiming the sky was falling has had to eat his own accusations. And that is where the lack of discernment on the part of the office and its leader has to eat at each of the kids charged, their families, and frankly, leaders in the community. When cases are brought that fail so completely in proof, everyone loses.
The kids who were charged and their families lost. They had to spend money to defend against baseless allegations. The community reputation was harmed. The coaches and school administrators looked like they had lost control of their charges. And the kids who were "harassed" lost too. Whatever really happened, it paled in comparison to the prosecutors claims. They were embarrassed, the subject of speculation and in some cases, shame. Prosecutors made a big deal out of little or nothing.
Prosecutors are just people and they make mistakes. They overcharge and under-prove occasionally, all to the mistrust of those who put them in office to investigate first, and charge later. But the lack of judgment in Blackfoot this past month in shouting from the mountains that their high school football team was a bunch or sexual abusers represents a failure on their part to ask tough questions first. It is in sharp contrast to what I usually see where I practice.
The only right thing to do when confronted with such a "cluster" (an old Army term for "monumental disaster") was to dismiss the felony charges.
Good to see they got that part right.