Independent probe continues of Leechburg hazing allegations
March 3, 2016 2:23 PM
The police chief said that hazing has been going on for 10 years among basketball players at Leechburg High School.
By Jonathan D. Silver / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Although authorities have decided not to charge anyone at this point in connection with a hazing incident involving a phallic stick and allegations of a vile, decade-long ritual among members of an Armstrong County boys varsity basketball team, the situation remains under review by a law firm hired by the Leechburg Area School District board.
Leechburg police Chief Michael Diebold late Wednesday released a three-page letter to the media discussing his department’s investigation of the allegations and explaining why criminal charges were not being pursued. Neither he nor District Attorney Scott Andreassi could be reached for comment.
District Acting Superintendent Frank C. Prazenica Jr. today referred questions to solicitor Robert Cinpinski, who said that he had still not obtained a copy of the chief’s letter and was reluctant to respond to questions about it until he had read it.
Mr. Cinpinski, however, did confirm that attorney John W. Smart of law firm Andrews & Price remains in the midst of an investigation that was launched last month.
“Our direction to the Andrews & Price law firm is, ‘We want you to investigate the underlying allegations, the manner it was handled, the policies and procedures’...and basically it covers soup to nuts,” Mr. Cinpinski said. “Wherever your investigation leads you, you go so we get to the absolute bottom of this.”
Mr. Cinpinski added that the probe will address “who knew what, when.”
In an effort to not have to “reinvent the wheel,” Mr. Cinpinski said he understood that the Leechburg police would turn over materials from the department’s investigation to assist the district’s probe.
“The chief had promised that when his investigation had concluded then at that point in time he would provide to us any background,” Mr. Cinpinski said.
The allegations came to light in late January after a report from a player's parent to a state child abuse hotline was forwarded to police.
In his letter, Chief Diebold said there were allegations that for the past 10 years students would be ”forcibly dragged or lured” into an area of the locker room, ”held down and have a stick named the ’yoshi stick’ shoved or attempted to be shoved into the rectum.”
An investigation into the most recent alleged incident from December revealed that the alleged victim’s clothing was not removed and no penetration occurred, the chief said.
The police department has confiscated the stick.
Chief Diebold also described allegations that current assistant coaches who are former student athletes either participated in or had been victims of such incidents. And on a broader scale, the chief wrote, there were allegations that the district violated its own policies, mishandled the December report and “engaged in activity through its actions or inactions that have permitted an environment to be created in which this activity is acceptable and has become a tradition.”
The chief called the allegations ”valid” but said alleged victims from earlier than December 2015 did not want to prosecute ”at this time.”
The chief explained that state law criminalizes hazing only for institutions of higher education, not high schools.
Jonathan D. Silver: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1962 or on Twitter @jsilverpg.
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