Police: Hazing escalated into violent crime

Police: Hazing escalated into violent crime

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - A series of hazing incidents has led to sex abuse charges against three Molalla High School basketball players who could be sent to prison if convicted.

John William Berokoff, an 18-year-old senior; Joshua Paul Haqq, a 16-year-old junior; and Onisefor Kutsev, a 17-year-old junior, were arrested over the past two weeks and accused of unlawful sexual penetration and sex abuse in what officials describe as repeated hazing of a teammate that escalated into violent crime.

If convicted under the law that has come to be known as Measure 11, the voter-approved initiative to crack down on the most severe crimes, all three teens will be treated as adults and sent to prison for a minimum of eight years.

Over the past decade, officials say that reported hazings in Oregon high schools have ranged from bizarre to violent.

In 1998, La Salle High School administrators punished the girls varsity volleyball team for making freshmen sing the national anthem with cookies in their mouths, quack like ducks, croak like frogs, and lick pudding off their kneepads.

Three years later, a trio of Sunnyside students pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault for piling on top of younger players and poking at the boys' buttocks.

In 2002, Lakeridge High School water polo players pummeled a freshman teammate until he could barely walk.

Although the episodes differ significantly, experts say they represent a range of cruelty associated with hazing.

Hank Nuwer, the author of "High School Hazing: When Rites Become Wrongs" and an assistant professor of journalism at Franklin College of Indiana, has studied dozens of hazing practices, from seemingly innocent pranks to criminal violence.

"All you need is one sadist on a team or someone who's very ignorant and has a misguided idea of what is funny," he said of the worst cases.

In the Molalla case, all three of the accused players are star athletes.

At least two of the Molalla basketball players are also fine students: Haqq has a 3.44 grade point average. Berokoff's average is 3.5, and recruiters at Western Oregon University have already signed him to play on its football team.

They both appeared last Thursday in Clatsop County Circuit Court in Astoria to face the charges.

"The allegations are that (Haqq) held down the victim while (Berokoff) had a much more active role," said District Attorney Josh Marquis. Investigators contend that one of the accused penetrated the victim using his finger.

Judge Cindee Matyas set steep bail for both defendants: $250,000 for Berokoff and $200,000 for Haqq, despite their attorneys' requests for lesser bonds so the teens could resume their studies.

Kutsev was still lodged at the Donald E. Long juvenile facility in Portland on a probation violation and did not attend Thursday's hearing. But he was expected to appear in Clatsop County for a hearing this week.

The three teens are also expected to face a second set of adult charges in Deschutes County, where two of the alleged sex abuse incidents took place.

According to a statement from the Oregon State Police, the basketball team's December road trip included visits to both the Seaside and Sisters areas.

Police believe three episodes of abuse took place during the basketball tournament: one on a school bus in Clatsop County, and two at a Sisters-area motel, in a hot tub and a motel room.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)