County Attorney: No criminal charges in Mingus hazing case
COTTONWOOD – The Yavapai County Attorney’s Office announced Thursday that it will not move forward with criminal prosecution in connection with the March 6 sexual-related hazing that resulted in 180-day suspensions for two Mingus Union varsity baseball players.
In an email to The Verde Independent, Penny Cramer, administrative assistant to Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, said, “We declined the case earlier this week and informed the victims and police of that decision.”
She said a police investigation into the hazing incident produced “insufficient evidence that does not meet our charging standard.”
In early April, the Mingus Union School Board voted to have the two 18-year-old student athletes suspended for 180 days for the hazing of three student athletes on a team bus. The students are not allowed to take classes at MUHS, the school’s academy or the school’s online program. They are not permitted on district property or at on- or off-district functions, such as sporting events, prom or graduation.
The police investigation came at the request of the Mingus administration.
“These cases can be very delicate,” said Cottonwood Police Chief Steve Gesell, who also serves on the Mingus Union School Board. “Prosecutors must consider the likelihood of a conviction. I trust the proper analysis was completed to reach that conclusion. It certainly does not diminish the concerns we all share regarding the safety of our kids.”
Earlier this month, MUHS Superintendent Penny Hargrove said there were five adults on the bus during the incident, including the bus driver.
Since the incident, “protocol has been put in place to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Hargrove also said.
Those protocols include a requirement that adults be “distributed in the front, the back and the middle of the bus for better eye-to-eye contact of the kids,” Hargrove said.
Hargrove also said that though students can listen to music on the bus, that they must use earphones.
“If an adult can hear it, the music must be turned down or turned off,” Hargrove said.
In addition to the sworn statements given during the Mingus disciplinary hearing, school board members and sworn witnesses watched video evidence of the incident gathered from a school bus surveillance system.
Dan Engler is the editor of the Verde Independent, a sister publication to The Daily Courier.