GUNNISON — A 16-year-old Gunnison Valley High School sophomore has been arrested and charged in juvenile court with multiple counts of sex abuse in a case of hazing that prosecutors say went too far.
"This isn't an instance where they made the kids stand up and sing an embarrassing song or wear an embarrassing outfit or something like that. This clearly crossed the line into sexual assault," said Sanpete County Attorney Kevin Daniels.
The boy, whom the Deseret News has opted not to name at this time, was charged Friday in Sanpete County's 6th District Juvenile Court with six counts of object rape, a first-degree felony, and five counts of forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony.
Daniels said the boy is accused of assaulting nine or 10 other boys at the school. The defendant is involved in athletics at the school as are some of the victims, he said.
Court documents list the alleged offenses as happening on Sept. 17. Daniels said there was an incident that was the "catalyst" to police discovering "many other" events.
"There was one … particular event that tipped it and caused the investigation to go underway and we received more information there were more victims," he said.
Deputy county attorney Wesley Mangum, the lead prosecutor in the case, concurred that the incident that initially caught the eye of investigators could be described as "hazing or horseplay that crossed the line by quite a ways," but he declined to go into further detail.
He said three teens were charged in connection with that incident. The other two are only facing a single charge each. But as the investigation continued into the 16-year-old, "many more victims came forward alleging behavior of the suspect, which continued to open up the door to other possible victims and things that have taken place, really over some time," Mangum said.
He said the alleged abuse dates back one or two years and there have been "multiple victims in multiple locations." For example, Mangum said police in Hurricane, Washington County, are investigating an incident in their city.
Daniels called the investigation "ongoing" and said additional charges are possible in addition to finding additional victims.
Sanpete School District Superintendent Kent Larsen said the alleged hazing was initially uncovered by the school resource officer. He said the district is also conducting its own investigation. Larsen said the district is trying to be as transparent as it can in addressing what happened, while recognizing that all of those involved live in a small town where everyone knows each other.