Prosecutors dropped charges this morning against a pair of former Crystal Lake high school wrestlers - one a reigning state champion - arrested earlier this year on allegations they hazed a teammate.
David T. Vinton, 18, and Randall S. DeBruyne, 18, left the McHenry County courthouse free of misdemeanor battery charges that had been pending against them since March when police ended a five-week probe into accusations of widespread hazing among wrestlers at Prairie Ridge High School.
Assistant McHenry County State's Attorney Demetri Tsilimigras made the move official in court, later explaining that a lengthy review of the investigation showed prosecutors could not prove a key element of the claims.
"Based on the evidence, we were not able to prove that the contact was of an insulting or provoking nature," Tsilimigras said. "All the students in some form or another stated that they were not disturbed by the contact and that no one was hurting one another.
"When the students are saying, 'I wasn't offended, I wasn't disturbed by it, we were doing this to one another,' we would have problems proving that element," he added.
Tsilimigras said both Vinton and DeBruyne, along with three juveniles accused with them, underwent counseling while the charges were pending. Charges against the younger wrestlers were dismissed previously as part of a juvenile diversion program.
"I think it was very important that all the defendants were treated in a similar manner," Tsilimigras said.
Lawyers for both teens - who have since graduated Prairie Ridge - praised prosecutors' decision to dismiss the charges.
"It was the right thing to do," DeBruyne attorney Henry Sugden said. "It was an overreaction by the school and police. When the state's attorney looked into it, they found it was much ado about nothing."
Vinton attorney Daniel Hofmann also commended his client, who captured the state championship in his weight class amid the hazing investigation.
"I think David Vinton handled this magnificently," Hofmann said. "To be unjustly accused of a crime and go on to become a state champion, it says a lot about his character."
The hazing investigation began in late January when Prairie Ridge officials received an anonymous letter claiming a student wrestler was held down and slapped in the stomach as part of a team ritual. The charges against Vinton and DeBruyne, filed in early March, claimed they touched a juvenile wrestler's buttocks in an insulting nature.