ASTORIA — A 22-year-old former Philomath High volunteer assistant football coach pleaded no contest on Thursday to a count of second-degree criminal mistreatment in connection with what prosecutors termed “aggravated hazing” incidents in July at Camp Rilea in Clatsop County.
Appearing in Clatsop County Circuit Court, Cooper Kikuta was sentenced to 60 hours of community service at the Children’s Farm Home and 12 months probation. The sentence does not require him to serve any jail time.
Second-degree criminal mistreatment is a Class A misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of up to one year in jail.
The charge stemmed from a hazing incident that took place between July 9 and 13 during an off-season conditioning camp attended by 35 Philomath High School football players and several coaches at Camp Rilea, a training facility operated by the Oregon National Guard.
Benton County District Attorney John Haroldson served as special prosecutor on the case. Kikuta was represented by Corvallis defense attorney Josh Hunking.
Prior to sentencing, Haroldson provided a summary of the investigation and incident to the court. Haroldson said that the varsity and junior varsity teams were staying in two separate barracks; the incident for which Kikuta was charged took place in the junior varsity barracks. Kikuta, a former player serving as a volunteer assistant coach, was staying in those barracks.
Haroldson said the incident involved a senior member of the varsity team attacking an intimate area of the victim. Haroldson later noted that the contact was not skin-to-skin; the victim was wearing clothing at the time of the attack. Haroldson noted that during the course of the investigation, many players said they would wear "multiple pairs of shorts" during this hazing practice, which he termed "a tradition of initiating players."
“The person attacking told Cooper Kikuta to turn away and Cooper Kikuta turned away,” Haroldson said in court. “There wasn’t any report made to any of the other coaches of what happened.”
Hunking said in court that that he did not agree fully with the statements as Haroldson presented them in court, but he declined to be specific, both in court and after the hearing on the record.
Haroldson noted that Kikuta had no prior criminal history and that because Kikuta was a former player serving as a coach, he was in a unique position and “found himself between two worlds.”
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“It’s also a unique situation because someone was in the position of seeing him in close proximity to what was happening,” Haroldson told the court, adding that there were two other JV coaches assigned to the barracks but that their locations during the incident could not be ascertained.
Kikuta is the only coach who has been charged in connection with the incident. Six juveniles were cited in connection with the incidents at the camp, and all admitted to allegations against them.
After the hearing, defense attorney Hunking said that Kikuta "wants the victim to know that he wrote the apology letter months ago, and is happy that now that the case has resolved that he can get the letter to the victim. Additionally, (Kikuta) is ready to move forward with his life and be a better man as a result of this unfortunate situation.”
Clatsop Circuit Court Judge Dawn McIntosh, who handed out the sentence, agreed to follow the terms of a plea agreement agreed to by both parties.
“This kind of conduct is disturbing,” McIntosh told Kikuta prior to sentencing.
McIntosh ordered Kikuta to 12 months bench probation, meaning unsupervised probation that requires Kikuta to report to McIntosh instead of a probation officer. McIntosh also reminded Kikuta that as part of the sentence, Kikuta was not to contact any current Philomath High School students or coaches and that he is not to leave the state of Oregon.
The Philomath school board canceled the school’s varsity football season in the wake of the criminal investigation into the hazing incidents, and the district launched its own internal investigation.
Melissa Goff, the superintendent of Philomath schools, confirmed in December that Troy Muir had been dismissed as the team’s head coach, at least in the context that he would not be offered a new contract. Goff also said at the time that no decision had been made on whether assistant coaches would be retained.
“All assistant positions will be offered in consultation with our future head coach,” Goff said in December.