Adult charges against Dietrich rape suspect dropped

17-year-old Tanner Ward will be charged as a juvenile.

DIETRICH, Idaho -- The Idaho Attorney General's Office has  moved to drop charges against a Dietrich teenager accused of raping his disabled teammate in the locker room of his high school.

Tanner Ward, 17, will still face criminal charges in juvenile court, AG spokesman Todd Dvorak said.

The dismissal of the felony charge of sexual penetration with a foreign object happened during a Tuesday pretrial hearing. Ward's co-defendant, 18-year-old John R.K. Howard, remains charged as an adult, and is set for arraignment next week.

MORE: White Dietrich football players accused of raping mentally disabled black teammate in locker room

Howard, Ward and a 15-year-old boy who is also charged as a juvenile, are accused of using a coat hanger to rape an 18-year-old student with mental disabilities, causing injuries that sent him to the hospital.

Officials have released little information about the alleged assault. But in a $10 million civil suit filed against the Dietrich School District, lawyers for the victim's family said the sexual assault came after months of cruelty and racial discrimination.

The family's attorneys in the civil suit say the victim, who is black, was physically attacked and called "Kool-Aid," "chicken-eater," "watermelon" and the N-word by his white teammates of the football team.

Howard, described as the ringleader of the abuse, also hung a Confederate flag on the teen's computer and made references to lynching and the KKK, according to the civil suit.

RELATED: Dietrich High School rape suspect appears in court

The alleged rape happened Oct. 23, 2015 in the Dietrich High locker room after a game. According to the lawsuit, one boy offered the victim a hug, then held him down as Ward forced the hanger into his rectum. Lawyers say Howard then kicked the hanger, forcing it farther into the victim's body.

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden filed charges against the three students in March, five months after the attack. Forcible sexual penetration is punishable by up to life in prison for adult defendants.

Dvorak wouldn't say whether Ward is facing the same charge in juvenile court, citing privacy laws that apply to underage offenders. He also declined to comment on why Wasden chose to move the case from adult court. 

Copyright 2016 KTVB


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