Family of Parkview baseball player sues in alleged hazing, assault – Atlanta Journal Constitution
Attorneys for one of the alleged victims in a reported hazing incident involving Parkview High School baseball players have filed a lawsuit against the South Carolina hotel where the team was staying, claiming the front desk improperly gave the accused upperclassmen players access to younger teammate’s room.
The family is seeking “in excess of $500,000” in damages against Hyatt Place Airport/Convention Center in North Charleston, S.C., and its parent companies, according to the suit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Charleston.
A Hyatt spokeswoman said the company would not comment on pending litigation.
The family of the player in the lawsuit is also “fully intending to go forward with the criminal side of this,” their attorney, Kurt Hilbert, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. So far, North Charleston authorities have issued only an initial police report.
The S.C. police acknowledge the family filing the federal suit has expressed an interest in authorities’ conducting a criminal investigation. Police had said recently that none of the alleged victims’ families had asked for such an investigation.
Last Friday, Gwinnett County Public Schools suspended all six Parkview upperclassmen implicated in the June 5 incident. They were accused of entering the rooms of four younger teammates — three 14-year-olds and one 13-year-old — and physically and sexually assaulting them. Those accused include one 17-year-old, one 16-year-old and four 15-year-olds.
Victims and their families are not identified because it is the AJC’s policy to not name victims of alleged sexual assault. The accused players are not identified because criminal charges have not been filed.
The federal lawsuit claims Hyatt Place Airport/Convention Center’s front desk improperly gave the accused players key cards to the younger players’ room. The alleged victim “sustained serious psychological damage and injury” and required medical treatment for physical injuries, the suit says.
The 16-page suit provides a detailed outline of the alleged victim’s account of what happened the night of the incident.
According to the document, the four alleged victims were in their hotel room when they caught wind of “unannounced visits” planned by the older Parkview players. The group of upperclassmen came to the door of the younger players, who stayed quiet and refused to let them in, according to the suit.
The older players then went to the hotel’s front desk and obtained key cards to the room, the suit alleges.
Hotel employees handed over the key cards “without any authority or permission from anyone” who was qualified to grant it, the suit claims. The filing doesn’t say say who, specifically, the hotel rooms were registered to, but claims the room in question was “assigned” to the alleged victims.
Once inside the room, the upperclassmen allegedly told their younger teammates that they were “going to have a talk.” The alleged victim named in the suit was then thrown onto a bed and “forcefully manhandled and wrestled down, held down, inappropriately touched over his body, and assaulted,” the document claims. The younger player also said his shorts were “partially removed.”
“Similar attacks were made on other freshman team members by the upperclassmen team members,” the suit says.
Team coaches were alerted to the incident the same night, and one coach reported the allegations to Parkview’s athletic director and other administrators. Gwinnett County schools police conducted an initial investigation before forwarding their findings to police in North Charleston, who have not conducted an investigation.
Hilbert, an attorney for the alleged victim named in the suit, said Wednesday that the family intends to travel to South Carolina next week to submit a formal statement and ask for a criminal investigation. Hilbert’s clients are listed as the complainants on an initial incident report obtained by The AJC, but the attorney said police never contacted the family further.
Capt. Scott Perry of the North Charleston Police Department confirmed that Hilbert and his clients have now “expressed an interest in going forward with criminal charges.”
”[W]e advised the first step in the investigation is to obtain a written statement from his client and we will go from there,” Perry wrote in an email.
All six players accused in the incident have been suspended from school either for a semester or the entire 2015-16 school year. Attorneys for five of the players are challenging the suspensions, however, saying that the alleged incident did not happen during a school-related function.
The accused players’ attorneys contend the baseball teams participating in the tournament in South Carolina were not Parkview High School squads but summer travel teams run and funded by parents in the Parkview Dugout Club.
A Gwinnett County judge declined to grant an injunction the attorneys asked for prior to a Friday disciplinary hearing, during which Gwinnett County Public Schools handed down its suspensions.