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No charges in Bedford team incident

‘Indecent exposure’ at football camp probed

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    SPT BedfordMonroe18p Bedford's head coach Jeff Wood looks back to his team at the final minutes of the high school football game against Monroe at Bedford High School in Temperance, Michigan on Friday, Oct. 17, 2014. The Blade/Justin Wan

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ADRIAN — No criminal charges will be filed after an investigation of an August incident involving several Bedford High School football players, Michigan authorities said Tuesday.

Neither school, nor law enforcement authorities have released details of the incident, which happened at a preseason football camp, other than to say it involved “indecent exposure.” School officials referred the case to the Michigan State Police, which investigated and filed a report with the county prosecutor.

Lenawee County Prosecutor Burke Castleberry, Jr., announced Tuesday that after reviewing a state police report on the matter, he decided the incident did not amount to a crime.

He said all the individuals involved were at least 16, the age of consent in Michigan, and that no students or parents wished to pursue charges or make a complaint.

“I cannot file charges against an individual without a complainant,” he said in a release. “The actions described in the report appear to be reckless and morally challenging; however, they do not rise to the level of criminal charges. The discipline in this case is best suited to be handled by the school system and parents of the individuals.”

The school district suspended nine players for various, unspecified games at the beginning of the season.

Coach Jeff Wood was also suspended for one game, although district officials said he did not know of any wrongdoing.

“Ultimately, that’s their decision to handle with court,” Superintendent Mark Kleinhans said of the prosecutor’s decision. “As a school, we felt we handled it in the appropriate way. We disciplined those involved, some athletically and some in school. No question it was a very difficult situation to be involved in.”

The incident occurred during a camp Aug. 9-12 at Sauk Valley Resort in Brooklyn, Mich. According to a Michigan State Police report obtained by The Blade through a public-records request, officers had considered charges of gross indecency, a felony, and aggravated indecent exposure, a misdemeanor. Details of acts the officers investigated, along with names of those involved, were redacted from the report.

The investigation says while there are two 15-year-old players on the team, neither minors participated in or observed any sexual activity.

If [a 15-year-old] would have been touched, if it was wanted or unwanted, it would have been criminal,” Mr. Castleberry said. “Boys do stupid things when you get 17-year-olds together.”

Mr. Castleberry described the incident as “hazing,” not “sexual.” He said none of the players involved complained that anything happened against their will during the incident.

“The stuff they were doing, if it was my kids I’d be quite upset with them and punish them,” the prosecutor said. “There is a difference between discipline and criminal acts. Unless it is unwanted, it’s not criminal, and everyone was willing.”

One father interviewed by the Michigan State Police said he believes his son “lost some of his innocence,” by witnessing the acts being investigated. He said his family did not wish to make a criminal complaint, though.

District officials said they were notified of the incident Aug. 17. High School principal Andrew Rousselo told MSP detectives that four Bedford High School football players engaged in inappropriate behavior during the camp. He said parents reported it because they were concerned about inappropriate actions between players on the team. Mr. Rousselo notified the Michigan State Police.

Mr. Kleinhans said the investigation included the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, Michigan State Police, and Child Protective Services. Investigators interviewed students, parents, and staff over a period of three days.

“The students involved, I hope down the road they are in a situation to make the right choice and act one way, or wrong choice with negative results,” Mr. Kleinhans said. “Maybe it’s in 20 years, maybe it’s in two weeks. But it was a teaching moment for the kids — a life lesson. I hope they choose the right choice down the road.”

Contact Matt Thompson at: mthompson@theblade.com, 419-356-8786, or on Twitter at @mthompson25.

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