Wheaton College internal document challenges alleged hazing victim's credibility

WHEATON, Ill. (WLS) -- Earlier this week, Wheaton College said its official investigation revealed conduct that was "unacceptable and inconsistent" with the school's values.

A document obtained by ABC News shows it was the credibility of the alleged victim, not the accused players, that was challenged by the school.

The three-page letter sent to the alleged victim accused him of "not being forthright."

Wheaton College essentially dismissed his sexual assault allegation against football teammates whom he accused of abducting him from a dorm room, duct-taping and beating him and leaving him half-clothed on a baseball field.

The school cited a witness who said the accuser was "laughing and joking" during incident. The alleged victim's claim of suffering a shoulder injury "inconsistent" with his roommate's statement and that he did not complain of shoulder pain and that he spoke of hurting his shoulder in high school.

Administrators say that "omission ... created significant concern about the (alleged victim's) credibility..."

James W. Cooksey, the last of five members of the Wheaton College football team facing felony charges for allegedly hazing another team member in 2016, turned himself in to police on Friday afternoon.

Benjamin Pettway and Samuel J. Tebos both turned themselves into the Wheaton police station on Thursday. Kyler Kregal and Noah Spielman turned themselves in on Tuesday.

The five players accused have all posted bond after having their mugshots taken.

In the letter, the school found the players' statements to be "consistent" and "more credible" than those of the accuser.

The school said the players took steps to ensure the accuser wasn't harmed, such as "not taking him far from campus..."

The only punishment detailed in the letter was to Noah Spielman, the son of former NFL star Chris Spielman, who the school said violated its sexual harassment policy for "sexualized" comments made while the accuser was "bound and blindfolded."

The letter said Spielman was given an official warning and a note placed in his file.

The alleged victim's attorney disputed the findings contained in the letter, including the claim that the accuser injured his shoulder in high school.

In a statement, Wheaton College confirmed the substance of the letter but declined to comment further.

Those findings shed some light on why the players remained on the team until recently.

Arrest warrants on charges of aggravated battery, unlawful restraint and mob action were issued Monday to Pettway and four of his teammates in an alleged attack on a former teammate last year.

James W. Cooksey, 22, of Jacksonville, Fla.; Samuel J. Tebos, 22, of Allendale, Mich.; Kyler Kregel, 21, of Grand Rapids, Mich.; Benjamin Pettway, 21, of Lookout Mount, Ga.; and Noah R. Spielman, 21, of Columbus, Ohio are accused of dragging a freshman teammate - kicking and screaming - out of his dorm room on March 19, 2016, tying him with duct tape and leaving him beaten and half-naked on a baseball field with two torn shoulders.

Wheaton police said officers responded around 11:20 p.m. that night to Central DuPage Hospital, where the victim told them about how he sustained his injuries. He left the school immediately after the incident.

Kregel and Spielman turned themselves in Tuesday. Spielman is the son of former Ohio State and Detroit Lions football player Chris Spielman. Kregel is expected back in court Oct. 23 for his arraignment.
A year after the incident was reported, all five players were still listed on the 2017 Wheaton College football roster. Three of them played in last Saturday's game.

"I question at this point whether the school handled this in an appropriate and serious manner or whether this was something they just wanted to go away," said Terry Ekl, the victim's attorney. "Where's the discipline? Suspension from school. Kicked out of school. Suspended from the football team. Kicked off the football team. None of those things happened."

ABC7 Eyewitness News partner The Daily Herald reports there was allegedly a second victim, who was also a freshman at the time. He was reportedly not injured and did not reach out to police for an investigation. The Herald said according to a recent roster, he is still on the team.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.
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