GOODING – One of the students accused of raping a disabled African American Dietrich High School student enters a plea.
John R.K. Howard, 18, pleaded not guilty in a Gooding courtroom Tuesday afternoon to a felony charge of forcible penetration by use of a foreign object. If convicted Howard could face life in prison, a $50,000 fine and registering as a sex offender for the remainder of his life.
Howard, 17-year old Tanner Ward and a 15-year-old unidentified boy allegedly used a coat hanger to rape an 18-year-old disabled student.
Howard is being charged as an adult in the case. Last week, a judge dismissed an adult charge against 17-year old Tanner Ward. Ward will be charged in juvenile court.
However, juvenile records are sealed; Attorney General Spokesman Todd Dvorak told 6 On Your Side he could not go into detail about the juvenile charge or charges Ward is now facing.
A source tells 6 On Your Side that the re-filing of a juvenile charge may have been prompted by a possible plea agreement with Ward. "I cannot comment on that, either," Dvorak said.
The adopted parents of the boy have filed a $10 million civil suit against the Dietrich School District. The families’ lawyers claim the assault was the culmination of months racial discrimination and bullying.
Charges were initially filed against the three boys in March by Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden.