Police reports say he was assaulted with a broomstick, a flashlight and a cane — and now a 12-year-old Tucson boy may see the camp counselors accused of attacking him receive a plea deal that could allow them to avoid prison.
The boy is one of 17 middle school students, ages 11 through 15, who police reports say were assaulted by three teenage counselors at a camp for school leaders in Prescott last summer. One of the counselors was Clifton Roy Bennett, the 18-year-old son of Arizona Senate President Ken Bennett.
The Yavapai County Attorney's Office, which is prosecuting the case, is saying only that Bennett and his co-defendants are scheduled for an early disposition hearing in Yavapai County Superior Court today.
Office spokeswoman Penny Cramer said she did not know anything else about the case. Two calls from the Arizona Daily Star to prosecutor James Landis on Friday and Monday were not returned. A Monday call to Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk also was not returned.
Clifton Bennett and Kyle Wheeler, 19, each had been originally charged with 18 counts of aggravated assault and 18 counts of kidnapping. They were arrested last month, after an official at one of the students' schools reported the incident to authorities. A third suspect also was expected to face charges.
Lawyers for Bennett and Wheeler did not return phone calls Monday.
Bennett and Wheeler described the activity with the boys as hazing and roughhousing, in interviews with the Prescott Police Department.
Wheeler said he had endured the same thing as a camper. Bennett told detectives he had participated in "brooming," but he thought it was all in fun.
According to police reports, the assaults took place at Chapel Rock Camp during a weeklong camp for school leaders in June. The reports say some campers clogged a toilet and, when no one would confess, witnesses told police the junior counselors lined up the youngsters, told them to bend over and "broomsticked" them.
The boys told police that "broomsticking" was done alternately with a broom, a cane, a mop handle and a heavy-duty flashlight while they were clothed. The exact definition of broomsticking varied, according to witness reports, from touching brooms to the boys' rectal areas to one description of how a boy was held down and the witness said the broomstick was "shoved" into his bottom.
Other witnesses say Wheeler choked several of the boys until they passed out.
At least two of the victims are from Tucson, according to local attorney Lynne M. Cadigan, who is acting as an advocate for one of them, a 12-year-old boy who attends Catholic school.
The father of that boy says he did not know about the assaults until a detective called the family's home in December. The father said his son spoke directly with the detective and has been reluctant to discuss the incidents with his family.
Cadigan says the assaults were clearly sexual, and both boys suffered physical trauma. She says both Wheeler and Bennett should have been charged with sexual assault and that they both deserve prison time.
The father said he spoke to the victim advocate in the County Attorney's Office, who told them Clifton Bennett was going to be offered a plea bargain to one count of aggravated assault.
Cadigan also said she was told by a representative from the office that Bennett is being offered a plea bargain to one count of aggravated assault and Wheeler will be offered two counts. They'll both face probation rather than jail or prison time, a possibility.
"Come on. I told her that was unacceptable. This was not roughhousing. These are 12- and 13-year-old kids. Anyone else would go to prison for six to 10 years," said the father, whom the Star is not naming because it would identify his son.
"I do remember when we picked him up from camp he complained that his butt hurt. But we didn't pursue it. We had no idea what had been going on," he said. "He's a pretty accomplished kid and he's in counseling now, so hopefully he'll get over it. He's a strong kid."
According to police reports, the Tucson boy was a particular target of Wheeler. Witnesses told police that Wheeler did not like the child because he talked a lot and so he "broomed" him more than any other camper. The boy told detectives that he was "broomed" seven to 10 times, and that all three of the suspects participated.