Prosecutors are charging seven De La Salle High School student football players with assault for allegedly hazing younger teammates.
Four of the seven accused students were arraigned in a Warren courtroom on Monday on misdemeanor assault and battery charges. Five are being charged as adults, and two as juveniles.
The charges come after a months-long investigation into the hazing scandal at De La Salle, an all-male Catholic high school in Warren. The hazing allegations led the school to cut the team’s football season short, and fire its coach.
The St. Clair County Prosecutor’s office investigated the case, after Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith cited a conflict of interest in his office. St. Clair Prosecutor Michael Wendling initially said he wouldn’t press charges due to a lack of evidence; he then changed his mind after two new hazing victims apparently came forward.
At Monday’s arraignment, lawyers for four of the accused students entered not guilty pleas on their behalf. Judge Matthew Sabaugh released them on personal bond, and ordered them to have no contact with their alleged victims, who are fellow De La Salle students.
Jack Kramer, an attorney for accused student Galiko Lovelace, said his client “absolutely and totally denies” any involvement in hazing or assault. He suggested the hazing investigation was “tainted from the beginning.”
“Frankly, I feel bad for my client for having to be dragged through this ordeal. No one has ever pointed the finger at my client until recently,” Kramer said.
Kramer added that “It’s interesting that all seven of the accused are African American.”
A group of African American students sued the school, saying they were disciplined while white players also suspected of hazing weren’t. That lawsuit was settled last month.
The remaining defendants are expected to be arraigned Tuesday.
In a statement, De La Salle said that it “will continue to cooperate with local law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office as they engage this case. Our faculty, staff, and leadership team will continue to take appropriate action based upon the facts around this incident and to ensure that it does not occur in the future.”