Four junior-high aged boys have been charged with sexual attacks on fellow students in a case that stunned this farming town, 9Wants to Know has learned.
All of the alleged victims are also boys – and all of those involved were students at Holyoke Junior High School at the time of the incidents, which occurred during the spring and came to light in early June.
At least one of the attacks may have occurred on school grounds.
According to court records, one of the boys faces two counts of sexual assault and one count of attempted sexual assault. Two other boys each faces two counts of sexual assault. And the fourth boy faces one count of attempted sexual assault.
One of the suspects was also himself a victim, 9Wants to Know has learned. At least two other boys were also victimized, investigators believe.
Brittny Lewton, the district attorney for seven counties in Northeast Colorado, said the charges include allegations that force was used in the assaults.
“After 13 years I wish I could say anything shocks me anymore,” Lewton said. “Unfortunately, I don’t think that people realize it, because they think we’re quiet out here in the northeast – we actually have some really horrific things, both in the homicide realm and in the sex assault realm.
“So I never look at anything and think wow, I could have never see that coming, or holy mackerel, that’s crazy.”
The charges – which would all be felonies if the boys were adults – were filed on Friday, according to court records provided to 9NEWS.
District Judge Michael Keith Singer issued gag orders in all four cases Monday after 9NEWS reporters started asking questions about the allegations. However, he ordered the release of some information – including the identities of the suspects – under a state law that makes some juvenile criminal records public in cases involving felonies or guns.
9NEWS has decided not to name the juveniles at this time.
“We’ve been cooperating with the police department and the DA,” John McCleary, superintendent of Holyoke School District Re-1J, told 9NEWS.
McCleary, who is conducting an investigation separate from the criminal case, said district employees did exactly what they were supposed to do when they learned of the allegations – they notified Holyoke police. He said a district employee first learned of the alleged incidents from a student’s cell phone.
That phone was turned over to police, he said.
That’s not what happened several years ago. In 2012, McCleary’s predecessor came under fire from the district attorney for failing to report an alleged sexual assault that occurred in a classroom to police. That led Bob Watson, Lewton’s predecessor, to send a letter to all 26 school districts in northeast Colorado reminding them that state law requires them to report alleged sexual assaults to law enforcement.
Now, McCleary said that in addition to working with police he could impose discipline on the students alleged to have been involved, depending on the outcome of his investigation.
“Once we get all the information compiled – from the DA as well as our own information – we’ll look at which policies and rules may have been violated and then we’ll proceed with appropriate, actionable disciplinary consequences after that,” he said.
He declined to discuss whether any of the alleged incidents occurred on school grounds or during school activities.
However, Lewton said at least one allegation “that occurred at the school.”
“Ninety percent of the alleged conduct occurred off school grounds, at non-school functions,” she said.
Lewton said she assigned an investigator to assist Holyoke officers with the case.
“Any sexual assault of any kind – adult, juvenile – is always a serious allegation both for the person being alleged to have committed it, and for the person alleged to have been committed against, so we do take that seriously,” Lewton said.
The four boys were all issued citations and released to their parents. Lewton said that if she’d “gotten information in this case and thought these individuals are dangerous – to themselves, to others” that she would have ordered that they be arrested and jailed.
Each of the boys faces a potential “out-of-home placement” of up to two years. That could be incarceration in a juvenile jail, time in a treatment center, or placement with another family member.
“They certainly face some of the penalties that go on with all sex assault cases, which are registration, and evaluation and treatment,” Lewton said. “That’s true whether you’re an adult or a juvenile.”
All four suspects – and their parents – are due in court Aug. 22.
Contact 9NEWS reporter Kevin Vaughan with tips about this or any story: firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-871-1862.