DAMASCUS, Md. (Kevin Lewis, WJLA and CIRCA) - Five junior varsity football players at Damascus High School have been charged with raping four of their fellow male teammates on Halloween.
Sources confirmed the five accused players used a wooden broomstick to sodomize the victims. The attacks, which school administrators called "upsetting and unacceptable," happened following afternoon dismissal in the boy's locker room near the gymnasium. The four victims were picked, in part, based on their age and level of athleticism, sources added.
On Friday, Montgomery County Police charged three of the players with two counts of second-degree rape and two counts of attempted second-degree rape. A fourth player was charged with three counts of second-degree rape. The fifth player was charged with one count of attempted second-degree rape.
“This reminds of the scene in ‘13 Reasons Why’ where they rape Tyler with the broomstick. I remember watching that thinking there’s no way people can be that cruel. I was so wrong,” one young woman noted on Twitter after reading various news reports.
“This isn’t the Damascus I know and love,” said a different woman. “This ain’t what you do to a teammate, that’s not a team.”
Following lengthy closed door conversations grounded in criminal law, authorities opted to pursue all five cases within the juvenile court system.
That decision will likely result in significantly lighter sentences compared with the adult network, assuming prosecutors secure guilty verdicts.
The juvenile system also shields its cases from public view, which in turn, will leave many important questions unanswered.
Circa's sister station WJLA asked the Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office why it opted to bypass the adult court system despite the abhorrent allegations. Spokesman Ramon Korionoff responded in writing, saying, "I can't talk about juvenile matters by law."
“The assailants are an abomination. An unforgivable act," said one woman who identified herself online as a "band mom." "I pray for the victims and their families. These boys are re-victimized with every interview and medical examination. God give them strength to persevere through this horrific situation."
NEW: I just updated our story on the Damascus JV football scandal.— Kevin Lewis (@ABC7Kevin) November 3, 2018
Many questions remain… Were witnesses present during the alleged rapes? Did anyone record video? Why weren't adults supervising the locker room? Were the victims physically injured?https://t.co/XpTOqwmPMz
WJLA has spoken with 10 people who claimed to have direct ties to Damascus' robust, powerhouse football program and most stated they were current or former players. Eight explained that hazing is a longstanding tradition at the school, but stressed that, until now, it never involved sexual assault. Fearing backlash, all 10 people spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Yet others, including former Damascus varsity player Chase Williams countered the assertions of systemic hazing. Williams went on to play football at Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
"None of this is any sort of tradition. I graduated in 2014 and played football all four years without any sort of hazing," Williams wrote on Twitter. "Coach Wallich always had a zero tolerance policy for hazing and I know he still does. The actions of a few should not impact the entire program."
In an email to her school community Thursday, Damascus' principal stressed that the alleged locker room rapes do not involve members of the varsity squad, which is riding a 52-game winning streak, the longest active high school football winning streak in the nation. On Friday evening, Damascus beat Wootton High School during an away game in Rockville, Maryland in the pouring rain.
"Damascus football should be banned indefinitely until further investigation. Varsity included. Notice how the principal made it a point to say varsity not apart of it?? How does [she] know? This falls on the entire program & head coach. This is a culture problem top to bottom," one person wrote on Twitter in reaction to the allegations.
The school did, however, forfeit the JV team’s eighth and final game of the season Thursday. Until then, the JV team had been undefeated. In fact, in four games its opponent did not put a single point on the scoreboard.
“This is a huge crime. It should never have happened,” said senior Ryan Holt whose brother currently plays on Damascus' varsity team. “It’s really messed up what happened, but it shouldn’t mess up the [record] and the reputation, but it does definitely put a dent in it.”
ABC7 visited the home of Damascus' head JV coach, Vinny Colbert, who answered the front door but declined to comment about the turmoil encircling his team.
Reached by telephone, Damascus athletic director Joe Doody declined to share details about next steps, including any potential disciplinary measures for the coaching staff.
“Listen, we’re still in the stages of trying to figure out what happened and we’ll deal with it as we learn more.”
Many questions remain. Were witnesses present during the alleged rapes? Did anyone record video or take photos of it? Why were no adults supervising the locker room? Did any of the four victims sustain physical injuries? Why did the attacks take place on the eve of the team’s final game of the season?
“No one would really expect this to happen here at Damascus because typically everybody is really nice with each other, friendly. This just never happens, nothing ever violent before," said junior Veronica Casanova.
“It’s so disappointing to be a Damascus graduate right now. DHS was many things when I was a student, and this isn’t one of them,” another young woman remarked.