A football player originally charged with sexually assaulting a black, mentally disabled teammate after an October 2015 football practice pleaded guilty to a lesser felony Friday, and prosecutors now say it wasn’t a sex crime.
John R.K Howard, 19, of Keller, Texas, pleaded guilty to a felony count of injury to a child. He will be sentenced to two to three years of probation and will likely be ordered to perform up to 300 hours of community service.
But Howard will avoid prison or jail time, and by submitting an Alford plea, he continues to maintain his innocence while acknowledging prosecutors would likely be able to win a conviction if the case went to trial.
Deputy Attorney General Casey Hemmer said that if the case had gone to trial, prosecutors would have proved that Howard kicked a coat hanger into the victim’s rectum after another football player put the hanger there.
“Based on continuing investigation throughout this case — interviewing of witnesses, speaking with the victim and getting a better picture of what happened in this case — the state believes this is the appropriate charge,” Hemmer said. “It was egregious behavior, it caused this victim a lot of suffering, but it is not, in my view, a sex crime, which is why the state has amended this charge. We don’t believe it’s appropriate for Mr. Howard to suffer the consequences of a sex offender, but he still needs to be held accountable.”
Howard’s attorney, Brad Calbo, agreed with Hemmer’s telling of the state’s evidence but said “it needs to be crystal clear, in this record, for this court, that this victim was not at any time pinned down, raped, or pinned down and subjected to any sort of forcible penetration.”
Hemmer agreed, saying there was no evidence supporting those claims.
The deputy attorney general also revealed during his statement that another of the football players charged in the case as a juvenile has pleaded guilty in juvenile court.
Howard is set to be sentenced Feb. 24.