An attorney for two alleged victims of hazing at Clover High School challenged authorities' decision not to file criminal charges and disputed their version of what happened.
"I feel so disgusted by this, every bit of it," said Richard Breibart, a Lexington lawyer who said he's representing two of three reported victims. "The solicitor can say what he wants. It's a criminal act."
On two separate days in September, Breibart said, Clover High football players forced his teenage clients into the locker room, pulled their clothes off and threatened to sexually assault them with a broom.
In one case, he said, a player tapped the broom handle near his client's naked body. In the other, he said, the broom handle touched an unspecified area of the student's body.
Breibart declined to identify his clients by name.
His version of the incidents veers sharply from what York County Sheriff's detectives said they discovered after investigating for several weeks.
York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant and 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett on Thursday dismissed the incidents as "nothing more than horseplay." Sheriff's investigators said they found a broom was present in just one of three incidents, but no one threatened to assault anybody.
In that case, Brackett said, players grabbed a student and might have "spanked him on the butt." Then a player was said to have approached the teen with a broom in hand.
In two other instances, sheriff's Lt. Mike Baker said, underclassmen were "grabbed up and brought to the shower area."
"They tussled, but there was no striking or beating,"
Authorities did not say whether students' clothes were pulled off.
Breibart's account, given in a Friday interview with The Herald, is a new twist in the month-long controversy that sparked a criminal investigation into three separate incidents that resulted in 13 student suspensions.
The incidents occurred on Sept. 1, Sept. 19 and Sept. 30. In each, a group of varsity football players allegedly hazed players ages 15, 17 and 14, respectively. In at least one incident, authorities investigated whether a student was sexually assaulted.
All three incidents happened near the end of the school day when players were unsupervised and preparing for practice.
At a news conference on Thursday, Brackett called the allegations "a renegade rumor" and said he didn't believe a crime was committed.
"Seventeen-year-old boys, that's what we're dealing with here," he said. "They're acting like 17-year-old boys."
On Friday, Brackett said he stood by the sheriff's office's investigation.
"I've got a very carefully detailed investigative report," he said. "I'm very comfortable with my decision.
"If Mr. Breibart does have any information he feels is valid, we are certainly willing to consider it."
Baker said Breibart's account is too vague for a direct response.
"We, too, stand by the investigation and regard it as fact," he said. "We would rather address specifics of the case."
Breibart blasted Brackett's portrayal of one of his clients.
On Thursday, Brackett accused the 11th-grader of changing his story and being "inconsistent from one telling to the next."
Witnesses the victim said would support his account actually contradicted it, Brackett said.
Brackett said he also doubts the 17-year-old's story because the teen canceled follow-up interviews with detectives after speaking with his attorney.
"He's retained counsel for a civil action, potentially against the school district," he said. "That affects somebody's credibility, because there's potentially a monetary reward for it down the road for him."
Breibart responded Friday.
"This thing here is one of the most astounding things I've ever seen," he said. "I don't know why they castigate a victim and call it a rumor when it wasn't started by these people. These kids didn't seek this out."
His clients first came to him for advice about the possible criminal case, Breibart said. It has never been about money for them.
"If the parents had been properly informed and felt like everything was fair and felt like everybody was doing their job, they would not have me involved," he said.
Breibart called Brackett's claim that two of the three victims said they didn't want to press charges, "categorically incorrect."
Brackett said he made that statement Thursday based on information from a detective and believes it to be accurate.
On Thursday, Bryant and Brackett said that before the Sept. 19 incident, the victim had antagonized players "in good fun" by "teasing" and "poking fun." The victim allegedly joked about the incident after it happened, Bryant said.
They also questioned why the teen didn't tell anyone about the incident, including his mother, who found out only after detectives came to her house to interview her son.
Said Breibart: "How many male people who are victims of an attempted rape and are 14, 15, 16 years old will come out and talk about it against their teammates?"
Ensuring victims' safety
Life for his clients since word of the incidents spread has been agonizing, Breibart said.
One student was threatened the day he returned to school, and classmates have continued teasing him, he said.
The other's grades have declined.
In a previous interview, one victim's mother said her son continues to be antagonized at school.
One family is considering withdrawing their son from Clover High, Breibart said.
Of the 13 football players suspended for the incidents, three seniors, who played a larger role, are finishing their year in an "alternative" setting, Clover schools Superintendent Marc Sosne said.
The other 10 students have returned to school. Of those, three have been given a chance to rejoin the football team.
Even though no criminal charges were filed, Sosne called the players' behavior "inappropriate" and "unacceptable" for school.
"The school differentiated disciplinary action for each student depending upon each student's level of involvement," he said Thursday. "We believe the action taken was fair and appropriate given our primary mission of ensuring a safe environment for all students."
While no lawsuits have been filed, Breibart said he plans to continue investigating.