California soccer players face felony sexual assault charges for disturbing hazing incident

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

Three teens at a Southern California soccer program are facing felony charges related to sexual assault in connection with a disturbing hazing incident in which four younger players were allegedly assaulted with a sharp-ended object in a routine known as the "pole tradition."

As reported by the Los Angeles Times and L.A. ABC affiliated KABC, two 17-year-olds and one 16-year-old student at La Puente (Calif.) High were issued an aggregate 26 counts connected with the violent sexual assault of four of their teammates. According to the Times, one young athlete was sodomized with some sort of a pole while the other three were all sexually battered to different degrees.

The lawyer representing the four teens who claim they were assaulted said that all four were hesitant to come forward with the charges out of embarrassment and fear of how news of their assault would be received.

"These boys were ashamed and embarrassed," Bryan Claypool, the victims' attorney, told the Times.

According to the counts brought by the victim, at least one of the attacks was filmed on cell phones by teammates who weren't directly involved in the assault itself. All four players were assaulted when entering the team's equipment room. In the days leading up to the attacks, each of the allegedly assaulted teens even expressed resistance to enter the room for fear of the "pole tradition."

As one would hope, Hacienda La Puente Unified School District Superintendent Barbara Nakaoka expressed shock and outrage at the allegations that led to the charges against the three La Puente students.

"This is intolerable, and our district cannot tolerate this," Nakaoka said at a press conference related to the charges. "There is a teacher coach involved, and we don't know the degree of involvement."

There have been no additional details about the coach's role, if any, in the incident. Nonetheless, Nakaoka said he had been placed on administrative leave until more about any potential involvement can be determined.

In the meantime, four teenagers remain embarrassed while three of their former teammates face potential life-altering charges, all as a result of alleged hazing ritual which some have indicated was not a longstanding ritual at all.

"I played soccer, I graduated 2003 from La Puente High School, and this never happened at all," one former La Puente soccer player told KABC.

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