by: Greg Suskin Updated:
CLOVER, S.C.,CLOVER, S.C. - After a month of swirling controversy, suspensions and a lost football season, officials said Thursday that an alleged hazing incident at Clover High School never happened.
"What we have here is nothing more than locker room horseplay," said solicitor Kevin Brackett, who decided not to file any charges in the case.
A Clover High School student claimed he was hazed and threatened with sexual assault in a school locker room.
That alleged incident happened Sept. 19, but didn't reach police until two weeks later, on Oct. 6. Brackett said by then, the rumor mill had run amok at the school.
"It's a renegade rumor that ran up and down the halls wreaking havoc on the truth," he said.
Sheriff Bruce Bryant said after countless interviews trying to get at the truth, nothing turned up.
"There was no evil intent, no malice, no intention to harm anybody," Bryant said.
Bryant described the investigation as thorough, and the case as very important to the department and the community. However, in the end, it was just teenagers being teenagers.
A key reason that no charges were filed was the words and actions of the victim himself.
Brackett said the victim changed his story several times, even refusing to talk to police later in the investigation, saying his lawyers told him not to talk.
Investigators told Channel 9 that even eyewitnesses who the victim said would back him up didn't.
"People he told us to talk to, saying, ‘They'll vouch that my story is true,’ -- they didn't vouch for him at all. In fact, they told the opposite story," Brackett said.
Thirteen students were suspended from school following the incident, and 10 were kicked off the football team. Ten of the 13 suspended students are back in class. The superintendent said Thursday that the remaining three students, all seniors, are taking classes in an alternative setting but will be allowed to graduate with their class.
"There was an incident on Sept. 19," Brackett said. "But it wasn't anything criminal."
School officials will not say specifically what happened in the locker room that day.
One allegation was that someone threatened to sexually assault the victim with a broomstick. Bryant said there was a broomstick there, but it was not used in any threat, and there were no words spoken about such a threat.
Two former Clover students were shocked to hear that no charges would be filed. Michael Watson graduated in June. He said he thought the rumors were true.
"If it's just a rumor, well that's just Clover. You hear rumors everywhere."
Joe Stringfield said the controversy has hurt Clover, but maybe this is finally a good end.
"Everybody now looks down on Clover because this happened, but now they're saying it's not a big deal and no one's even being charged with any of it, I guess that's good in a way," he said.
Superintendent Marc Sosne said after doing their own investigation, the coaches acted appropriately, and the school doesn't expect to make any changes.
Investigators also said they found no evidence of any history or tradition of hazing at Clover High School.
"Your children are safe at Clover High School. We should all just get back to business," Brackett said.
Two other students who also claimed to be victims of hazing did not want to press charges.