It was a long string of brutal abuse by his fellow teammates before Tim and Shelly McDaniel's adopted son, Antwon, experienced a horror that would send him and the entire town of Dietrich, Idaho, into a tailspin.
Earlier this year, the 18-year-old high school football player, who suffers from disorganized schizophrenia, was raped with a wire coat hanger by three of his fellow teammates: John Howard, 18, Tanner Ward, 17, and an unnamed 16-year-old.
The only black player on an otherwise all-white team, the young man had come to expect abuse at the hands of his teammates.
Previous incidents of abuse and race-related harassment against McDaniel included his white teammates—particularly the three in question—calling him “Kool-Aid,” “chicken-eater,” and “n**ger,” posting a Confederate flag on the victim's computer, and forcing him to learn and sing a racist song titled “Moonman Notorious KKK,” reported local station KTVB.
According to reports, the victim's teammates would hump the victim, sometimes even forcing him to strip nude on the bus so they could take pictures of him.
And as a prelude to the shocking act that brought it all to a head, during training camp, they forced the victim to fight the “ringleader,” 18-year-old John Howard (pictured above).
The victim wore boxing gloves while Howard went bare-knuckled.
As a result, Howard left him bloodied and unconscious. Allegedly, the coaches were cheering Howard on, too.
Howard, the so-called “ringleader,” had a troubled past—he had been sent to Idaho from Texas in order to “straighten out”—though few details could be found on his life in Texas.
Nevertheless, Howard didn't straighten out. During the assault, he allegedly kicked the wire coat hanger several times as it was lodged inside McDaniel's rectum, leaving McDaniel bleeding and requiring major surgery and multiple stitches.
Howard then told another student, “I just pounded him so hard.”
Months later, after being tried as an adult and looking at a possible sentence of life in prison, John Howard is free.
According to The Daily Kos, Howard will not face any jail time, nor will he be classified as a sex offender, having taken a plea bargain for a lesser charge.
Howard pled guilty Friday to one felony count of injury to a child, and his conviction will likely be dismissed after completing his probation, which has been recommended by prosecutors to be 300 hours of community service.
A final condition of his plea bargain is that Howard is allowed to maintain his innocence, in spite of overwhelming evidence against him, including eyewitness accounts.
Idaho Deputy Attorney General Casey Hemmer made a statement where he called Howard's actions “egregious,” but said that they couldn't be considered a sex crime:
“We don’t believe it’s appropriate for Mr. Howard to suffer the consequences of a sex offender. But he still needs to be held accountable.”
Meanwhile, the McDaniels have a $10 million civil lawsuit pending against the district due to what its “deliberate indifference” to their son Antwon's safety. The suit reads:
“Mr. Howard is a relative of prominent individuals in the community and, at least in part due to his athletic ability and community connections, the Defendants ignored or were deliberately indifferent to the behavior of Mr. Howard which included aggression, taunting and bullying of The Plaintiff and other students in the District. With deliberate indifference, the Defendants did nothing to curb the vicious acts of Mr. Howard who brought with him from Texas a culture of racial hatred towards the Plaintiff.”
According to witnesses, coaches looked the other way during the attack and did not intervene.
The other teammate, Tanner Ward, 17, pled guilty over the summer on a juvenile case.
Ward was originally charged as an adult for forcible penetration by use of a foreign object, but a plea bargain allowed him to move the case to juvenile court.
Since the trial began, the McDaniel family has been subjected to harassment and abuse from residents of Dietrich, many of whom, in spite of the evidence, don't believe that Howard, a budding football star, committed any of the acts of which he is accused.
The McDaniel family has since left the town they once loved.
[Editor's note: This post has been updated after publication.]