Two former Milton football players who assaulted their teammate with a pool cue will not face jail time for the two-year-old offense, a Superior Court judge ruled on Tuesday.
Colby Darling, 19, and Brian Lasell, 20, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor simple assault in exchange for an 18-month deferred sentence, which, if completed successfully in June 2016, will be wiped from their criminal records, State’s Attorney TJ Donovan said.
Simple assault carries a maximum penalty of a yearlong prison sentence and/or a $1,000 fine.
The agreement is a partial conclusion in the criminal case filed against five former Yellowjackets who police say sodomized former teammates with wooden objects during the 2011-2012 seasons. The allegations became public in April, and the five players pleaded not guilty to charges in August.
Darling and Lasell must also meet with a reparative board, consult with a bullying expert and not contact with the victim for 15 months, after which they’ll discuss the agreement’s progress, it reads.
The three other defendants – Brandon Beliveau, Ryan Carlson and Will Jenkins – have not yet accepted a deal, and their cases are moving toward trial, Donovan said.
Donovan told Judge James Crucitti that Darling and Lasell assaulted their teammate, identified as Victim #1 in court papers and under the pseudonym “Smith” in previous Independent coverage, at a team party at Lasell’s residence in 2012.
The incident started with joking but progressed to Lasell and Darling dragging the victim downstairs, restraining him and poking his rectum over his clothing, causing pain and humiliation, the prosecutor said.
Donovan said the victim has been ostracized and bullied but still wants to forgive his attackers and have a happy high school experience.
“It’s really not the physical injury, the pain, that was caused,” he said. “It was the mental anguish, the pain and suffering of feeling alone, of feeling people he looked up to, the people he trusted, betrayed him.”
The victim, a 16-year-old student at MHS, addressed the court directly, reading a prepared statement from an iPad.
“Have you ever felt like you were lost in a place you were most familiar with?” he asked. “People I trusted made me feel like I was no one.
“The football team said that we were family, or at least that’s what I was told,” the victim read. “I thought they would protect me. They turned their backs on me.”
Crucitti told the defendants they should be grateful the victim agreed to the deal, as the case could have brought way harsher charges, like sexual assault.
“It would have destroyed your life. You’d have been on a registry,” Crucitti said. “It’s the victim’s decision in wanting this … because there isn’t much that would stop me otherwise from doing that to you.”
Crucitti said the victim had “strength in character the football team did not show, the school administration did not show in dealing with this. He’s the one that showed it.”
Donovan challenged the defendants to “earn this agreement.” He acknowledged townspeople, many of whom are critical of the lesser charge, may not agree, but because the victim did, his team felt it was right and a “roadmap to healing.”
“The victim gave them the opportunity, as did the court, to make something of themselves, to give back to their community, to make amends and to be better people than they were on the night in question,” Donovan said.
Darling and Lasell also spoke, apologizing to the victim, the community and their parents. Darling became choked up, and Lasell turned and spoke directly to the victim.
“I did not realize then the hurt I caused, but I really do now,” he said.
Donovan said the entire Milton community lost trust and togetherness since the case broke open in April. Outside the courtroom, he gave the victim credit for its outcome.
“[It] is a selfless act, is an act of courage, is an act of leadership by a young man who loves his community, who loves his high school and wants nothing more than to belong to it,” he said.