Katy area cheerleaders indicted
KATY, TX (KTRK) -- Seven Morton Ranch high school varsity cheerleaders have been indicted in the alleged hazing of JV cheerleaders.
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It's a story we first broke last summer when the hazing allegations first surfaced against the cheerleaders. Now, those varsity cheerleaders are accused of blindfolding several junior varsity cheerleaders, binding their hands and pushing them into a pool.
"Where the line is of hazing being fun and friendly or hazing being deadly is a real thin line," said Randy Sorells, attorney for the plaintiffs.
It's a thin line a Harris County grand jury believes seven Morton Ranch High School students crossed the morning of July 25. Kelly Buffa, 17; Hannah Cochran, 18; Halely Davis, 17; Kirsten Davis, 17; Adelynn Garner, 18; Meigan Goff, 18; and Madison Tanner, 17, all face misdemeanor hazing charges.
According to the Harris County district attorney's office, the seven are accused of "restraining several junior varsity cheerleaders, blindfolding them, binding their hands and pushing them into a swimming pool."
Days after the incident, Eyewitness News first talked to a relative of one of the alleged 13 victims. She said her sister's hands were bound with duct tape and she was threatened.
Five other varsity cheerleaders accused in the crime are under age, so their cases will be handled by a juvenile court.
A lawyer who represents one of the underage defendants and an attorney for Adelynn Garner both offered their reaction to the indictments.
"She understands how some of the girls could have felt discomfort that night and might have been unhappy with the way the night ended," said Garner's attorney, Robert Fickman. "She's understanding of that as are her parents and wishes nothing but the best for all the JV girls."
"I certainly believe just based on what I heard there was certainly not any criminal intent on the part of any of these girls," said attorney Tucker Graves, who represents one of the juvenile cheerleaders.
As for the alleged victims, there is some disagreement among some of them. Some don't feel like they were hazed, while others believe they were victimized.
These are believed to be the first cases filed in Harris County under Texas' anti-hazing law. Illegal activities include sleep deprivation, exposure to the elements, confinement in a small space, consumption of food, liquid or alcoholic beverage that may cause harm and shame and humiliation. Prison sentences can range from 180 days in jail up to two years. Fines can range from $1,000 up to $10,000.
Late Friday night, Katy ISD released the following statement:
"This has been a very difficult time for the students and families involved and we are eager to see that this matter is appropriately resolved so that all students at Morton Ranch High School may continue on with the remainder of their school year without further distraction.
Based on information gathered during the investigation, the district believes that it took the appropriate steps in reporting this incident to the Harris County District Attorney's office, as well as the suspension of all varsity cheerleading activities at Morton Ranch High school for the 2008-09 school year. Whatever legal action that is taken next is in the hands of the court system."
local, laura whitley
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