TWIN FALLS – A 19-year-old charged with kicking a coat hanger into the rectum of a mentally disabled teenager in the Dietrich High School locker room will not spend any time behind bars, a judge ruled Friday.
Instead, John R.K Howard of Keller, Texas, was ordered to spend three years on probation and complete 300 hours of community service. Because the judge handed down a withheld judgment, he will be allowed to petition to have the felony conviction scrubbed from his record.
That’s not good enough, the victim’s mother said in court.
“His punishment is the slap on the hand for him, a slap in the face for [victim] and to our family,” Shelly McDaniel said. “[Victim] had the courage to come forward thinking that if he did, something good would come from this ugly thing, that someone else wouldn’t have to suffer the same humiliation and pain that he has suffered and continues to suffer. Every time a verdict comes down for one of these men or boys, he becomes more and more disappointed that the legal system failed him.”
McDaniel described her son’s nightmares and suicide attempts since the attack, telling the judge his mental state had deteriorated to the point that he had to be moved out of the family home into an assisted living facility.
“This is not the life we wanted for our son, and it isn’t the life he was going to have,” she said.
The case drew nationwide attention after McDaniel and her family filed a $10 million lawsuit against the school district, alleging that administrators had allowed racist and bullying attitudes to flourish at the school, culminating in a vicious attack on the black 18-year-old victim by his white football teammates after a game.
Deputy Attorney General Casey Hemmer told the judge that the evidence showed 17-year-old Tanner Ward inserted a coat hanger into the victim’s rectum, and Howard kicked it into the victim’s body.
But he insisted there was more to the story, and the public outrage that has followed the case is based on misinformation.