Former Miner pleads no contest to haz­ing, as­sault charges

The Saline Courier - - FRONT PAGE - By Sarah Perry and Josh Briggs [email protected]­ton­

A former Baux­ite High School base­ball player pleaded no contest to mis­de­meanor charges of haz­ing and as­sault Tues­day in Polk County Dis­trict Court in Mena.

In con­nec­tion with the plea, Lorenz Fehren­bacher, 19, was or­dered to pay $810 in fines and is to have no contact with vic­tims in­volved in the case.

Thomas “Gage” Lester was also ar­rested in con­nec­tion with the in­ci­dent.

Ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments, Lester pleaded not guilty to the charges and a trial was sched­uled to be­gin Tues­day.

The charges stem from a 2018 in­ci­dent that took place when the Baux­ite base­ball team was trav­el­ing to Mena on a school bus.

The two up­per­class­men — Fehren­bacher and Lester — were sit­ting at the rear of the bus when they al­legedly called two stu­dents to the their area. The vic­tims told po­lice they were told if they didn’t they would be beaten up. One vic­tim claimed he “was afraid be­cause they have beaten him up in the past,” ac­cord­ing to an af­fi­davit com­pleted by Arkansas State Po­lice.

When the vic­tims went to the back of the bus, the two former stu­dents al­legedly “stuck their fin­gers in their but­tocks and grabbed their tes­ti­cles” on top of the vic­tims’ clothes. One vic­tim said they held him down while some­one else counted, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

Fehren­bacher also al­legedly struck a vic­tim in the chest, “knock­ing him back­ward and caus­ing him to lose his breath.”

The vic­tim told ASP he “had to bend over for sev­eral min­utes un­til he re­gained his breath,” the trooper wrote in the af­fi­davit.

This in­ci­dent first came to light in April 2018 when school of­fi­cials said mem­bers of the team were be­ing in­ves­ti­gated.

Three var­sity base­ball play­ers

were even­tu­ally ex­pelled for the re­main­der of the 2017-18 school year.

Lester was also sus­pended for 10 days and placed in the dis­trict’s al­ter­na­tive learn­ing school. After in­for­ma­tion about in­ci­dent was re­leased last year, fel­low base­ball player Sawyer Webb took to so­cial me­dia to share de­tails of the al­leged in­ci­dent.

In a note via Twit­ter, Webb wrote more than 600 words about what he said hap­pened dur­ing the bus ride.

“Me, along with fel­low mem­bers of the Baux­ite base­ball team, have been given death threats, have been looked down upon, and have been shamed for things we did not even com­mit,” Webb wrote. “I’m tired of what is hap­pen­ing to us and it’s time for me, some­one on the bus, to re­lease what hap­pened.”

He explained that the play­ers were ex­cited about win­ning the game.

“After we had eaten at Wendy’s, we then got on the bus and started to head home. First, a bunch of the boys started horse play­ing with each other in the very back.”

Webb de­scribed the play as wrestling and laugh­ing to­gether since ev­ery­one was happy about the win.

Webb added that shortly there­after, one of the play­ers de­cided to start hav­ing fresh­men come to the back of the bus and up­per­class­men be­gan tack­ling and “goose egging” them.

“We did not take part in any sex­ual ac­tions as they did not take any parts of their clothes off. We were all laugh­ing and hav­ing a good time.”

Webb ac­knowl­edged that the boys said things “teenage boys will say,” al­leg­ing that they learned the lan­guage “since even our coaches cuss at us.”

“We called cer­tain fresh­men back there each time and cer­tain peo­ple only rough-housed with them for no longer than 30 sec­onds,” Webb con­tin­ued. “No one stuck any­thing up any­one’s rec­tum or any­thing. Again, no one had their clothes off.”

Head Coach Michael Mat­tox and now former As­sis­tant Head Coach

Steven Tew were placed on paid ad­min­is­tra­tive leave after the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was an­nounced.

A Baux­ite School Dis­trict official later said both coaches would not be charged with child mal­treat­ment in con­nec­tion with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Tew has since ac­cepted a coach­ing po­si­tion with the Carlisle School Dis­trict.


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