State Politics

Bill to broaden sex crimes targets problems like Dietrich locker room attack

A Dietrich School District bus.
A Dietrich School District bus. Twin Falls Times-News

An Idaho Senate committee has introduced two bills that would broaden the definition of some sex crimes to include crimes committed with the intent of degrading or humiliating someone.

Idaho Deputy Attorney General Paul Panther told the Senate Judiciary and Rules committee on Monday that both the state’s current statute on sexual battery and the statue on forcible penetration with a foreign object define the crimes as having been done with the intent of sexual gratification or arousal. But Panther said those statutes currently don’t cover situations like severe hazing, when someone — such as on a high school sports team — is sexually battered during a bullying incident.

Panther’s example wasn’t a hypothetical: His office investigated an October 2015 attack on a black, disabled Dietrich High School football player who reportedly had a clothes hanger kicked into his buttocks in a school locker room. Attorney General Lawrence Wasden announced last March that there was no evidence the attack was motivated by sexual arousal, gratification or abuse — making it impossible under Idaho law to charge it as a sex crime. That conclusion, and the wording of Idaho’s law, led to national criticism of the case.

A misdemeanor level would also be added to the sexual battery statute. That would not require registration as a sex offender.

People convicted of aggravated felony sexual battery, however, would be subject to sex offender registration.

The bills now must clear a full hearing, which has not yet been scheduled.