Sex attacks targeted central Minn. high school teammates
- Article by: PAUL WALSH and LARRY OAKES
- Star Tribune staff writers
- July 26, 2012 - 11:26 PM
Football and basketball players at Browerville High School were repeatedly sexually assaulted by teammates in showers, elevators and hotel rooms, according to criminal charges that have authorities puzzled that the attacks continued for months without anyone complaining or investigating.
The charges against two recent graduates filed in Todd County District Court Thursday describe a series of assaults that began after a team practice last summer and culminated in incidents of sexual penetration in a Minneapolis hotel during the state basketball tournament in March.
An attorney for one of the young men said his client has been singled out for prosecution for doing something that also was done to him, as well as "100 kids from the past 20 years."
Seth J. Kellen, 18, of Browerville, and Connor S. Burns, 18, of Clarissa remain free pending court appearances scheduled for Aug. 20.
Five criminal complaints charge Kellen with numerous assaults on multiple victims, some in their early teens. In several instances, the attacks took place inside the central Minnesota high school.
Kellen is charged with both felonies and misdemeanors, including third-degree criminal sexual conduct involving penetration and indecent exposure in a public setting.
Burns is charged with six counts of criminal sexual conduct, four of them felonies and two gross misdemeanors. The most serious is third-degree criminal sexual conduct involving penetration.
County Attorney Chuck Rasmussen said this case is not viewed as hazing because "the victims included seniors, and there's no reason for hazing seniors. Also, the victims said it didn't feel like a hazing situation."
Rasmussen said authorities think there are more victims than those noted in the charges, but some wouldn't talk because they were too embarrassed or uncomfortable to aid investigators.
"Some kids weren't even telling parents," he said. "Now, was sports so important to the community that they didn't dare tell? We just don't know."
The investigation produced no evidence that coaches or school officials ignored or even knew about the incidents, Rasmussen said.
Both defendants declined to speak with investigators, Rasmussen said, and their parents have been "silent."
Earlier this year, prosecutors filed similar charges against a juvenile, Rasmussen said, but because some juvenile court proceedings are private, he declined to identify that person.
Neither of the defendants nor their parents could be immediately reached to comment following Thursday's charges.
Kellen's attorney, Chris Karpan, branded as "patently ridiculous" the charges against his client for what Karpan termed "inappropriate hazing activities."
Karpan added Kellen was subjected to similar acts four years ago, as were "100 kids from the past 20 years" at the high school.
Therefore, the attorney said, there must be others out there who "must be awfully worried that the world is about to come to a screeching halt, too."
Rumors about hazing and sexual misdeeds had been swirling around the school for some time, leading District Superintendent Robert Schaefer and Sheriff Todd Mikkelson to hold a news conference in May to explain some of what they were investigating and urge anyone with information to come forward.
School offices were closed Thursday, leaving officials there unavailable for comment. Messages were left at the homes of Schaefer and athletics director/football coach Wayne Petermeier seeking reaction to the charges and the allegations of long-running hazing incidents at the high school.
According to the charges:
In April, a parent went to a school official about a sexual incident in August 2011 at Horseshoe Lake, about 4 miles north of Browerville.
After the football team's practice, led by the captains, several players went to the lake for a swim. Some team members began dunking a teammate and sexually assaulted him while he was underwater.
A 17-year-old player alleged that in March at the state tournament, Burns held him down in their downtown Marriott Hotel room while another teammate digitally penetrated him through his athletic shorts.
The next night, the 17-year-old endured the same, this time with one teammate holding him down while Burns and Kellen carried out the assault, the charges said.
Kellen also is accused of pulling down his own pants while in a Minneapolis parking ramp elevator with his teammates and two student managers, ages 11 and 12. Kellen then jumped on teammates' backs and hit them with his penis, according to the charges.
Kellen also is accused of sexually assaulting football and basketball teammates numerous times in the locker room, in a school hall or in a locker room shower.
His assaults were alleged to often involve penetrating or attempting to penetrate teammates digitally through clothing, groping teammates' genitals or trying to make them touch his genitals. One teammate he allegedly victimized was 13 years old, another 14 at the time.
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