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Centre County DA: Criminal Investigation 'Does Not Substantiate' Former Penn State Football Player's Hazing Allegations

by on January 16, 2020 2:27 PM

Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna said on Thursday that a criminal investigation "does not substantiate" former Penn State football player Isaiah Humphries' allegations that he was hazed and harassed by teammates and that his reports were ignored by coaches.

Cantorna made brief remarks on the case at the Centre County Courthouse Annex in Bellefonte two days after Humphries' allegations were revealed in a federal lawsuit filed against the university, current Nittany Lion player Damion Barber and coach James Franklin.

"As of today’s date, that investigation does not substantiate the serious allegations made. What I mean by that is that the evidence doesn’t meet the high threshold of filing and proving criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt," Cantorna said. "Based on that review no charges have been filed."

Humphries claims that he and others were subjected to bullying and hazing by four players — Barber, Yetur Gross-Matos, Jesse Luketa and Micah Parsons — whom he alleges would wrestle teammates to the ground and simulate sexual acts, as well as place their genitals on or near the alleged victims. He says they also made threats including "I am going to Sandusky you," and that one player threatened Humphries with physical harm after he reported the alleged misconduct.

He also says that Franklin and other unnamed coaches took no action in response. Humphries alleges that they retaliated against him by having him participate in athletic drills designed to ensure he would fail, trying to get him to leave the team by offering a medical retirement option and giving negative reports to schools Humphries was considering once he decided to transfer. He ultimately transferred to the University of California.

Cantorna said his office received a report in April 2019 "regarding serious allegations of crimes of a sexual nature involving the Lasch [Football] Building." Witnesses and "other university students and staff" were interviewed and the investigative reports were turned over to Cantorna.

Penn State issued statements on Tuesday saying that the accusations were investigated and the findings were turned over to Cantorna, who did not pursue charges. The university said "extensive interviews" were conducted and no claims of hazing were substantiated by the police or internal investigations, which were carried out independent of Intercollegiate Athletics by the Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response and the Office of Student Conduct.

Cantorna said his office was involved with the investigation alongside a police detective from the time the report was made.

He added, however, that anyone with information related to the case should contact his office.

"These are very serious allegations," Cantorna said. "If there are individuals who have information regarding them they can contact the Centre County detective at the Centre County District Attorney’s Office. I can assure you that information will be followed up."

The transcript of Cantorna's remarks, including a brief question-and-answer period, is below.

As you all know it’s the policy of the Centre County District Attorney’s Office not to discuss ongoing criminal investigations nor to discuss cases where criminal charges have not been filed. Nevertheless, given recent events we are issuing this statement to briefly address some questions arising from the allegations presented in Isaiah Humphries’ recent filing in federal court.

As previously reported in the press, in April 2019 our office received a report regarding serious allegations of crimes of a sexual nature involving the Lasch Building. An investigation into those allegations was undertaken. Witnesses were identified who would have knowledge or evidence and information regarding those events. Police interviewed those witnesses along with other university students and staff. These investigative reports have been reviewed by our office.

As of today’s date, that investigation does not substantiate the serious allegations made. What I mean by that is that the evidence doesn’t meet the high threshold of filing and proving criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt. Based on that review no charges have been filed.

These are very serious allegations. If there are individuals who have information regarding them they can contact the Centre County detective at the Centre County District Attorney’s Office. I can assure you that information will be followed up.

Other than that statement and any clarification you might need, I will have no further comment on the matter.

Question: Can you elaborate in terms of matters that could arise that could obtain that threshold, so to speak?

Cantorna: Any criminal case is always open for review. If there’s additional information we review it.

Question: In general has the Timothy Piazza hazing legislation created any added work for you when you’re reviewing any hazing case?

Cantorna: The review is the same. I don’t believe so, no.

Question: All of the information from this case was turned over to you, confirming Penn State’s statement on the matter that police had turned these things over to you?

Cantorna: I can tell you that at the time that these allegations were received by the district attorney’s office, our office was involved in the investigation

Question: Along with Penn State?

Cantorna: Along with the detective that was conducting interviews, yes.



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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