Sheriff: More assaults reported on bus
WOODSTOCK – The investigation into an incident on a school bus that led to the cancellation of part of the basketball season for the Strasburg junior varsity and varsity boy’s teams actually involved three distinct incidents with three different alleged victims.
Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy C. Carter and Commonwealth’s Attorney Amanda McDonald Wiseley disclosed new information about the scope of the investigation during a press briefing Monday. The investigation remains open, but no additional charges are under consideration for now.
The only incident previously known to be under investigation has led to seven boys being charged with assault or battery by a mob. Each of the defendants has made an initial appearance in Shenandoah County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court and is awaiting scheduling of a trial date.
The incident also resulted in Shenandoah County Public Schools Superintendent Jeremy Raley announcing in January the suspension of all JV and varsity basketball practices and games, an action that grew to encompass the remainder of the season.
The investigation began after school authorities received a report of a sexual assault on a bus carrying members of the basketball teams on their way home from games in West Virginia on Dec. 19.
Carter said Monday that the two previously undisclosed incidents were in West Virginia. As a result, the cases are under investigation and subject to possible prosecution in West Virginia, although Shenandoah County authorities are cooperating with their counterparts across the state line.
Carter gave no details about the incidents in West Virginia, although he said the victims were different from the victim who was allegedly assaulted in Virginia.
Carter and Wiseley also said there is no evidence to substantiate the initial report that the assault in Virginia was sexual in nature.
“At this point, we have no evidence to bring a sexual assault charge,” Carter said.
Carter also reported that there is no evidence of criminal wrongdoing by the four adults who were accompanying the 31 students on the bus.
“At this point, our investigation has found no probable cause to charge any of the adults on the bus,” Carter said.
Wiseley remained silent on the status of the cases pending in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. She cited state law that bans publicly disclosing any actions conducted in court involving juveniles charged with misdemeanors.
“They’re all still pending,” Wiseley said of the seven cases.
Wiseley said the legal definition of assault or battery by mob is “unwanted touching by more than one person.” There is no firm penalty for juvenile cases, but conviction in adult court carries a maximum jail sentence of 12 months.
Carter said students informally call the alleged assaults “lynching,” but the term does not carry a racial connotation in the context of the basketball team case, contrary to earlier accusations by an attorney representing one of the defendants.
“Lynching means different things to different people,” Carter said, adding that the Dec. 19 incident had “nothing to do with race. It had nothing to do with anything.”
Carter also said his department investigated two other incidents involving reports of assaults against members of athletic teams. Both were unrelated to the school bus case of Dec. 19, and authorities were unable to substantiate the other two accusations, Carter said.
Carter described parents and students interviewed during the investigation as cooperative.
“They want to be helpful,” Carter said. “They want to get to the bottom of everything.”
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org