Two Minnesota teenagers have been charged with a raft of misdemeanors and felonies in connection with actions they claim was simple hazing and prosecutors contend was something even more sinister than hazing itself.
As reported by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Browerville (Minn.) High graduates Seth Kellen and Connor Burns, both 18, were charged with a variety of charges related to attacks on other Browerville students. Burns was handed four felony charges of criminal sexual conduct, and six charges in all, including a third-degree count that includes sexual conduct involving penetration.
Kellen also received a felony count of third degree sexual conduct involving penetration, as well as a count of indecent exposure in a public setting. There were more than 10 counts handed down to the two teenagers in total. Both teenagers were members of the Browerville football and basketball teams, with their alleged victims believed to be comprised of fellow athletes on those squads.
While a lawyer for one of the two teenagers claims that the actions they committed were symptomatic of hazing that they also encountered, the county attorney prosecuting the case is building a case that the attacks were not hazing-related because some of the victims included seniors, who would not be logically be considered potential victims of hazing.
"The victims included seniors, and there's no reason for hazing seniors," Todd County attorney Chuck Rasmussen told the Star-Tribune. "Also, the victims said it didn't feel like a hazing situation."
The delineation between whether the attacks were hazing related or more traditional charges could lead to a sea-change in how hazing incidents are handled, particularly those provoked by seniors who are no longer minors. If the attacks are deemed to be outside the scope of hazing, future teens brought up on charges related to hazing cases could find themselves in much more severe legal trouble.
Given the severity of the attacks promulgated by Kellen in particular -- police documents claim that he attacked in school showers, hallways and the locker room and tended to focus on groping genitals, penetrating teammates through their shorts or making them touch his genitals -- there's every justification for charging him with assault in its fullest extent. That, in turn, might be bad news for others who may be connected with hazing cases in the future, as Kellen's attorney made clear himself in an interview with the Star-Tribune.
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."