Felony charges dropped against one teen in Dietrich rape case

John R.K. Howard
John R.K. Howard

The felony case against a 17-year-old Dietrich High School football player accused of sexually assaulting a mentally disabled teammate was dismissed Thursday, but an 18-year-old charged in the case is scheduled for arraignment next week.

Jury selection in the case against Tanner Ward was set to begin Sept. 14 and a trial was scheduled for Sept. 21. Both were vacated Tuesday after District Judge John Butler dismissed the felony charges. Ward still faces charges in juvenile court.

John R.K. Howard, an 18-year-old charged in the alleged locker room assault last October, is set to be arraigned in Lincoln County District Court on Tuesday.

Howard, of Keller, Texas, is charged with a felony count of forcible penetration with a foreign object. He is accused of kicking a hanger into his teammate’s rectum after his co-defendant used the hanger to attack the boy.

Howard and Ward were both initially charged as adults. Another teen is charged as a juvenile and accused of luring the victim into a hug before Ward and Tanner attacked. The juvenile’s case is completely sealed, while parts of Howard’s and Ward’s cases are sealed.

It was at Ward’s preliminary hearing April 22 that details of the alleged attack first emerged. The victim testified that the two teens began harassing him before practice that day and then attacked in the locker room.

A civil suit filed by the victim seeking $10 million from the school district, school administrators and football coaches alleges that the sexual assault was a culmination of months of racial abuse suffered at the hands of Howard, Ward and other football players. The alleged victim is black.

The school district and those named in the suit denied the allegations.