PARKER, S.D. – Six former Parker High School wrestlers testified Monday that a 17-year-old state wrestling champion raped them with his fingers or tried.
The revised juvenile petition against Jerome Hunt of Parker includes four counts of second-degree rape and seven counts of attempted rape. Some are alternates so he can't be convicted of all charges.
Hunt, who won the state Class B wrestling championship last year at 160 pounds, is also accused of being a child in need of supervision and faces unrelated misdemeanor drug and alcohol charges.
The six accusers are all younger, wrestled in lighter weight classes and no longer attend school in Parker.
The trial started two weeks ago but was postponed because of a blizzard.
Hunt's lawyer, Mike Butler, has said in court papers that the alleged acts of sexual penetration during the 2005-2006 season were legitimate wrestling moves known as "skinning" and the "butt drag."
He has also said the accusers are lying, which he tried to prove while cross-examining each teen.
Circuit Judge Steven Jensen will decide Hunt's fate instead of a jury because the case is in juvenile court.
Normally such proceedings are closed to the public, but a state law allows reporters to attend if they don't identify the minors involved.
Hunt's former teammates testified that the attacks happened as the wrestlers gathered for practice before the coaches showed up, in the back of a bus coming home from a tournament and at a wrestling camp in Nebraska. One said Hunt also kissed him.
Some of the boys said they didn't tell anyone because Hunt threatened to hurt them.
"I was scared. And I didn't want to go through all of this," one of them said on the stand.
Another said he didn't realize the incident that happened during horseplay was a crime until his parents told him. "I took it as messing around at first because he did it to other kids."
Some of the boys said Hunt touched them while being held down by other wrestlers.
One boy said Hunt bear-hugged him, took him down to the mat and attacked him.
"It didn't feel good," he said.
They described "skinning" and "butt drag" in court and said it's not what Hunt did to them.
"That wasn't a wrestling move you'd been taught?" State's Attorney Tiffani Landeen-Hoeke asked one youth.
"No, not at all," he replied.
During cross-examination of each witness, Butler tried to portray that the boys changed their stories from what they told an investigator or the grand jury that met in August and what they testified about at the trial.
Some acknowledged that parts of their testimony came from what other boys said and not solely from what they saw or experienced themselves.
"Then you weren't exactly being truthful, were you?" Butler asked one boy who said he assumed Hunt raped another wrestler because it had happened to him.
"No," the boy said.
Another said he had only recently started to recall details.
"Between the grand jury and now, you remember stuff," he said.
Butler asked for a mistrial Monday after the grandparents of a wrestler testified that they received a news story in the mail from someone anonymously that threatened retaliation.
The only people who would know enough details of the case were those in the courtroom, so someone was trying to tamper with a witness, which is a felony, Butler argued.
Assistant Attorney General Robert Mayer countered that the case has been a much-discussed topic of conversation in the small town, so the facts are widely known.
The judge agreed and refused to stop the trial, which is scheduled to conclude Wednesday.