Rape charges fuel Iron Range tensions

  • Article by: JOY POWELL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 24, 2006 - 11:30 PM

Three Hibbing Community College football players and a former one from out of state are charged in the alleged gang rape in a dorm.

The alleged rape of an 18-year-old high school senior by four current and former football players at Hibbing Community College is renewing tension in Iron Range towns over the recruiting policy for college athletes.

The four were charged Monday in connection with the alleged gang rape of a Grand Rapids, Minn., woman in a college residence hall on Oct. 14.

Daily Whitten, 19, of Darlington, S.C.; Talon D. Jackson and Terrance D. Laverity, both 20 and both of Miami, were each charged with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

A former player, Andrew J. Williams, 20, of Milwaukee, was charged with two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct for allegedly molesting the woman while others raped her, according to a complaint filed Monday in St. Louis County District Court.

Williams provided a statement to police saying he witnessed the rape. He quit the football team earlier in the season, before the alleged incident, said Ken Simberg, provost of Hibbing Community College. The three players have been suspended.

Bill Hanna, editor of the Mesabi Daily News, said there's been controversy on the Iron Range about out-of-state recruiting at Hibbing, Mesabi and Vermillion community colleges. Athletes have come from Milwaukee, Texas, Detroit and other locales.

"It's a tension issue, and it has been for a lot of years," Hanna said. "And then also, there is a certain racial component that's included."

In 1991, black football players recruited to play at Hibbing Community College complained of racist threats and incidents. The same year, a group of whites armed with a rifle broke into the Hibbing apartment of some black college students and attacked them. One of the 26 black recruits had been charged in a gun incident, and two were suspects in a rape.

In 1993, a Virginia, Minn., man, along with two friends, went looking for a football player who allegedly raped his 13-year-old daughter. They beat the first black man they found. He was one of 12 black football players recruited to play at Mesabi Community College.

It's too early to say whether the recruiting practice is a contributing factor in the latest case, Hibbing Mayor Rick Wolff said Tuesday.

"But certainly, it's one of the many things that will be looked at as we try determine how this happened," he said. "It may come into play."

The alleged assault

In the Hibbing case, the woman said she had been visiting a friend in the dorm when she headed toward the exit just before 10 p.m. The woman said she had not been drinking.

The complaint said that a black football player whom the woman had previously met in the dorms ushered her into a room where she was sexually assaulted. She told police she thought there were five attackers.

It was her boyfriend's mother in Grand Rapids who contacted authorities. Officers saw a red mark on the alleged victim's neck and a bruise on her upper left arm that appeared to be a finger or thumb grab mark, the complaint said. The players contend that any sex acts that occurred were consensual.

Williams remained in the St. Louis County jail Tuesday night in lieu of $60,000 bail, while the others were held in lieu of $75,000 bail.

On Thursday, Hibbing police searched the room where the alleged attack occurred, Simberg said.

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