Does Your School Give Favored Treatment to Athletes?

LLE, Ky. – Two Catholic school athletes who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 16-year-old told police they did it because they thought it would be “funny,” according to court records released under a Jefferson County judge’s order.

Savannah Dietrich had been frustrated by what she felt was a lenient plea bargain for the two teens who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting her in August 2011, so she tweeted their names and criticized the justice system.

Both teens, who were 16 at the time of the assault, said in interviews with a Louisville Metro Police detective before their guilty pleas that they also took explicit pictures of Savannah Dietrich with their cellphones while she was intoxicated.

After Dietrich initially complained about the plea deal the two teens received, Paul Richwalsky, chief prosecutor in the juvenile court division of the county attorney’s office, told her “get over it and see a therapist. … The jail was for ‘real’ rapists, murderers and robbers,” according to an affidavit released Thursday.

Dietrich’s lawyer, Thomas Clay, told the court that Richwalsky gave the teens favored treatment because they were athletes at Trinity High School, where Richwalsky is an alumnus, serves on the reunion committee and supports the sports teams.

The teen boys pleaded guilty to charges of first-degree sexual abuse, a felony, and misdemeanor voyeurism as part of the plea agreement. They are required to do 50 hours of volunteer work and the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice will determine the level of supervision and treatment needed. The conviction could be set aside and erased when the teens turn 19½ if they complete a diversion program.

The teens told Detective Chris Horn in separate interviews that they were drinking with Dietrich and a few other people at her home in August 2011 when they were left alone with the heavily intoxicated Dietrich. They said they lifted her shirt, pulled down her pants and penetrated her vagina with their fingers because, according to one of the teens, “we thought it would be funny, but it wasn’t.” They said they took two or three pictures each, put Dietrich’s clothes back on and carried her upstairs to her room. Numerous other teenagers told police that the teens showed them the pictures, according to police reports.

Dietrich later learned of the teens’ plea deal, which she considered too lenient, then tweeted their names and complained about the court’s treatment of her. The lawyer for the accused at first sought to have her held in contempt for exposing what was, at the time, a confidential juvenile court proceeding. Dietrich and her parents gave permission to use her name.

The older of the two teens told police in his interview that he molested Dietrich because “she was fine with it.”

“How do you know she was fine?” police asked him.

“I mean she could have definitely been like, ‘Stop, don’t do this’ and we would have stopped, but she didn’t,” the boy responded, adding that she was conscious but “very drunk” and had “low eyelids.”

Before they were charged, the teens pleaded with Dietrich in several text messages not to go to court over what happened, according to copies of the texts released in the files.

“Savannah I know u probably think I’m the worst person in the world,” the younger teen texted her in December, asking if they could meet with her and apologize, according to the court records. “There is another way to deal with this other than jeopardizing our lives forever.”

When the older teen said their lives could be ruined, Dietrich responded in a text: “You don’t think you ruined my life forever? How would you feel knowing you basically got raped. Knowing people are seeing your pictures, tell me who all saw these pictures? It’s humiliating I feel exposed.”

Richwalsky says he told Dietrich and her mother about the plea deal and denies telling her she needed to move on or get over anything, calling the allegations “preposterous.”

The teens pleaded not guilty in March and were put on house arrest though they were allowed to go to previously scheduled college visits.

On June 26, they pleaded guilty to sexual abuse and voyeurism; their sentencing was put off for seven weeks for a required sexual-offender risk assessment.

Both teens have had to withdraw from their Catholic high school. Details about the younger teen were not available, but the Department of Juvenile Justice said the older teen had a GPA of 3.83 and was ranked 25th out of 328 students.

Jefferson County Public Schools said he would have to attend an alternative school because of the charges.

Does your school give favored treatment to a specific group of students?  Or are all students treated the same?  The perception of favored treatment is a difficult one for schools to overcome.  I believe that schools need to recognize students who “give back” whether they perform in school plays, play in the orchestra of play in sports. However, most school recognition programs favor athletics and athletes.  We give them recognition, jackets, dinners and trophies.  Why not give the same recognition to academic achieving individuals?  Schools were built to recognize academic achievement as well as athletic achievement.