Former player says hazing was 'good-natured fun' at St. Mike's sex assault trial
Warning: This story includes graphic and disturbing details
Hazing brought a Toronto high school football team closer together despite the fear it caused, a former player told a sexual assault trial Thursday.
But two sexual assaults on two different students that took place in the football team's locker room "may have been taken too far," the teenage boy said of two incidents in the fall of 2018 at the private, all-boys St. Michael's College School.
The teen said he was afraid when older boys on the team would attack others and try to pull their pants down. But even after one incident when he was attacked but managed to keep his pants up, he said it was "good-natured fun."
"In the instant no one wants to be mishandled, but later it makes you closer to your teammate," the teen said.
He said older boys would often shout out "get him, get him" and then a group would jump a teammate as part of "roughhousing" him.
Teen told police he was among group who held student down
A former member of the football team has pleaded not guilty to two counts each of gang sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon and assault with a weapon related to two incidents in which students were sexually assaulted with a broom handle.
The testifying teen identified the accused in a video showing a group of students participating in one of the incidents on Nov. 7, 2018.
Court heard Wednesday that the testifying teen told police the accused was among a group of players who held down another student, who was not part of the team, during the November incident.
He said two other teammates held a broom handle and sexually assaulted the victim.
A student captured that incident on video, which was then shared widely in the all-boys Catholic school on Snapchat, court heard. The testifying teen said he saw the video once at school on another student's phone before watching it again in court Thursday.
"At first I didn't realize there was a recording of what happened," the teen said. "Then I felt bad for (the victim)."
The video, which had also been played in court in March 2020 when the trial began, shows a boy being sexually assaulted as others cheered and laughed.
Another former teammate testifies he told boys to 'stop'
Another former teammate testified Thursday that he witnessed the tail end of the sexual assault - the victim was on the ground, his underwear ripped.
He said he saw the accused teen hold the victim near his waist as another teammate held the boy's torso while a third boy wielded the broom.
"I said 'chill, chill, chill,' to get the boys doing it to stop," he told court.
The other sexual assault occurred in October 2018, but there is no known video of that incident.
The first testifying teen said on Thursday he had little recollection of the October incident, but said he was in the locker room when it happened.
The second testifying teen said he knew of no other incident. Other students previously testified about the culture of hazing on the team, which often involved players hitting others on the butt with a broom, shoving teammates in lockers and throwing things at them.
Complainant initially a suspect before charges against him dropped
In December, court heard a recording of a police interview where one complainant described being sexually assaulted with a broom handle by a group of students in the school's locker room in October 2018.
In the second recording, he recalled seeing a group sexually assault another student in a similar way the following month, also in the locker room.
The complainant did not mention the accused when discussing the October incident, but alleged the accused held back the arms of the victim in the November assault.
The complainant was initially one of the suspects in the November 2018 incident, but the charges against him were dropped.
Three teens have pleaded guilty to sexual assault with a weapon and assault with a weapon for their roles in the incidents and have been sentenced to two years of probation.
One of them also pleaded guilty to making child pornography for recording one of the sex assaults in a video that was widely distributed.
Another student received a two-year probationary sentence with no jail time after pleading guilty. The charges against another student, aside from the one who testified, were withdrawn.