Two senior athletes for Browerville High School during this past school year were charged Thursday with sexually assaulting teammates at different times and locations, including two incidents while with their basketball team in the state tournament this spring in Minneapolis.
Charged in central Minnesota's Todd County District Court were recent graduates Seth J. Kellen, 18, of Browerville, and Connor S. Burns, 18, of Clarissa. Both, who also played football, remain free pending court appearances scheduled for Aug. 20.
Five criminal complaints charge Kellen with numerous counts involving multiple victims, some in their early teens, with the alleged assaults at times occurring in the high school.
The charges against Kellen, which his attorney is strongly challenging, range from felonies to misdemeanors and include third-degree criminal sexual conduct involving penetration and indecent exposure in a public setting.
Burns is charged with six counts of criminal sexual conduct, four of them felonies and two gross misdemeanors. The most serious is third-degree criminal sexual conduct involving penetration.
County Attorney Chuck Rasmussen said this case is not viewed as hazing because "the victims included seniors, and there's no reason for hazing seniors. Also, the victims said it didn't feel like a hazing situation."
Rasmussen said authorities think there are more victims than those noted in the charges, but some wouldn't talk because they were too embarrassed or uncomfortable to aid investigators.
"Some kids weren't even telling parents," he said. "Now, was sports so important to the community that they didn't dare tell? We just don't know."
The investigation produced no evidence that coaches or school officials ignored or even knew about the incidents, akin to the coverup alleged in the Penn State sex abuse scandal, Rasmussen said.
Both defendants declined to speak with investigators, Rasmussen said, and their parents have been "silent."
Earlier this year, prosecutors filed similar charges against a juvenile, Rasmussen said, but because some juvenile court proceedings are private, he declined to identify that person.
Neither defendant, nor their parents, could be immediately reached to comment following Thursday's charges.
Kellen's attorney, Chris Karpan, branded as "patently ridiculous" the charges against his client for what Karpan termed "inappropriate hazing activities."
Karpan added Kellen was subjected to similar acts four years ago, as have "100 kids from the past 20 years" at the high school.
Therefore, the attorney said, there must be others out there who "must be awfully worried that the world is about to come to a screeching halt too."
Rumors about hazing and sexual misdeeds had been swirling around the school for some time, leading to District Superintendent Robert Schaefer and Sheriff Todd Mikkelson to hold a news conference in May to explain some of what they were investigating and urging anyone with information to come forward.
School offices were closed Thursday, leaving officials there not immediately available for comment. A message was left at the homes of Schaefer and athletics director/football coach Wayne Petermeier seeking reaction to the allegations from Kellen's attorney of long-running hazing incidents at the high school.
According to the charges:
In April, a parent went to a school official about a sexual incident in August 2011 at Horseshoe Lake, about 4 miles north of Browerville.
After the football team's practice, led by the captains, several players went to the lake for a swim. Some team members began dunking a teammate and sexually assaulted him while he was underwater.
A 17-year-old player alleged that in March at the state tournament, Burns held him down in their downtown Marriott Hotel room while another teammate digitally penetrated him through his athletic shorts.
The next night, the 17-year-old endured the same, this time with one teammate holding him down while Burns and Kellen carried out the assault, the charges said.
Kellen also is accused of pulling down his own pants while in a Minneapolis parking ramp elevator with his teammates and two student managers, ages 11 and 12. Kellen then jumped on teammates' backs and hit them with his penis, according to the charges.
Kellen is also accused of sexually assaulting football and basketball teammates numerous times in the locker room, in a school hall or in a locker room shower.
His assaults were alleged to often involve penetrating or attempting to penetrate teammates digitally through clothing, groping teammates' genitals or trying to make them touch his genitals. One teammate he allegedly victimized was 13 years old, another 14 at the time.
One victim said Kellen would run around the gym before basketball practice and grab players' genitals. The same victim said Kellen tackled him before one practice and groped his rear end and genitals over his clothing.