Former Miner pleads no contest to hazing, assault charges
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.