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Crime & Courts

Another Wheaton College football player turns himself in to police

One of five Wheaton College football players charged in 2016 hazing incident

Benjamin Pettway, 21, of Lookout Mount, Ga., turned himself in to the Wheaton Police Department on Sept. 21. He is one of five Wheaton College football players being charged with aggravated battery, mob action and unlawful restraint in a 2016 hazing incident.
Benjamin Pettway, 21, of Lookout Mount, Ga., turned himself in to the Wheaton Police Department on Sept. 21. He is one of five Wheaton College football players being charged with aggravated battery, mob action and unlawful restraint in a 2016 hazing incident.

WHEATON – Another Wheaton College football player charged in a 2016 hazing incident has turned himself in to police.

Benjamin Pettway, 21, of Lookout Mount, Ga., turned himself in to the Wheaton Police Department on Sept. 21. Kyler Kregel, 21, of Grand Rapids, Mich., and Noah Spielman, 21, of Columbus, Ohio, turned themselves in to police earlier in the week.

James Cooksey, 22, of Jacksonville, Fla., and Samuel TeBos, 22, of Allendale, Mich., have yet to turn themselves in to authorities. The players are charged in a March 2016 hazing incident in which a freshman player reportedly was attacked, bound with tape and left in a field.

They are each charged with aggravated battery, mob action and unlawful restraint, and have been suspended from practice or games. Spielman is the son of former NFL player Chris Spielman.

Noah Spielman's attorney, Mark Sutter, said in a statement that Noah Spielman "was shocked to hear of these charges after an investigation by Wheaton College exonerated him over one year ago."

"Regardless, Noah has willingly surrendered to law enforcement to face these allegations, and he will continue to cooperate with authorities moving forward," the statement said. "Mr. Spielman and his family have full faith and confidence in the legal process and the DuPage County criminal justice system."

During a news conference on Sept. 20, Sutter also questioned why it took so long for charges to be filed.

"This is something that's been lingering for over a year and a half," he said. "There were multiple investigations. The NCAA did an investigation. Wheaton College did an investigation. He was exonerated in both arenas. And now these charges have somehow [been] resurrected ... . At the time, when criminal charges likely could have been levied, they weren't. I don't know what the impetus was for the delay. I certainly will investigate that and find out why there was a delay. The fact is they were punished. They were handled internally."

Sutter said he didn't know how the players were punished internally. In reply, Wheaton Deputy Police Chief William Murphy said the investigation into the hazing incident was complex and involved interviews with numerous suspects, witnesses and Wheaton College employees.

"All of the suspects lived out of state and were only accessible to us during the school year," Murphy said in an email. "The investigation required numerous subpoenas for voluminous records related to victim injuries and Wheaton College/NCAA documents. The statute of limitations for these felony charges is three years, and the investigation was reviewed with the DuPage County States Attorney's Office in less than 18 months."

In addition, he said the victim had transferred schools to take himself out of harm's way and that he required medical procedures for his injuries that the department had to wait to be completed in order to detail the extent of his injuries.

"The Wheaton Police Department continued to investigate this case even after the college had completed their own investigation," Murphy said. "Our obligation to the victim and our community is to perform a thorough, competent, comprehensive and fair investigation to ensure all legal requirements are fulfilled before seeking prosecution."

About 11:20 p.m. March 19, 2016, Wheaton police officers responded to Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield regarding an incident that involved members of the Wheaton College football team.

The victim reported receiving serious injuries when he was attacked by five members of the team and left in a field with his limbs secured with tape.

"He was attacked by the suspects in a dorm room, where he was subdued with tape," Murphy said in an email. "His arms and legs were bound and a hood placed over his head. During this [time] his shoulders were injured. They dropped him off in a nearby baseball field."

A second person also was hazed as part of the incident but chose not to press charges, Murphy said.

Wheaton College released a statement, saying it was "deeply troubled" by the allegations.

"Wheaton College aspires to provide an educational environment that is not only free of hazing, but practices our values as a Christian community," the college said in the statement. "As such, we are deeply troubled by the allegations brought by law enforcement against five members of our football team. When this incident was brought to our attention by other members of the football team and coaching staff in March 2016, the college took swift action to initiate a thorough investigation. Our internal investigation into the incident, and our engagement with an independent, third-party investigator retained by the college, resulted in a range of corrective actions. We are unable to share details on these disciplinary measures due to federal student privacy protections."

College officials said they have fully cooperated with authorities in their investigation, and in light of the incident, the college's board of trustees has engaged outside experts to review the campus's anti-hazing policy and "the culture around how students treat one another in our campus communities, athletic teams and organizations."

"To not impede the law enforcement investigation, the college was bound by confidentiality and unable to share more information until now," the college said in the statement. "The conduct we discovered as a result of our investigation into this incident was entirely unacceptable and inconsistent with the values we share as human beings and as members of an academic community that espouses to live according to our Community Covenant."

The college revised its anti-hazing policy in 2014 and improved its training protocols to "include a formal review of our anti-hazing policy with all student athletes every year, with required student signatures," the statement reads.

The college also requires annual training for residence assistants who are responsible for residence hall activities, according to the statement.

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