A fifth suspect will avoid jail time for his alleged role in the mass rape case that victimized 10 high school boys and has for years roiled the tiny town of La Vernia, Texas, just 30 miles southeast of San Antonio.
Robert Olivarez Jr. pleaded no-contest to a felony charge of unlawful restraint on Monday and was sentenced to five years deferred adjudication, which often includes community service and probation but does not involve jail time, the Texas Attorney General’s Office confirmed on Thursday. Unlike a guilty plea, a no-contest plea is an acceptance of the court’s punishment without an admission of guilt. So far, none of the former students who were allegedly involved in the mass rapes have been sentenced to time behind bars.
Olivarez, then 17, was accused of holding down a 16-year-old boy on a bed while sodomizing him with the threaded end of a carbon-dioxide tank as part of a November 2016 “initiation” to the varsity football team, according to an affidavit filed in his arrest.
Olivarez and two others were at a home off-campus when they shouted “Get him!” and allegedly pinned the 16-year-old face down on the bed and attacked him, The Daily Beast previously reported.
“The victim struggled to stop the assault, but was overpowered by the four suspects and pinned down where he could not move,” La Vernia police Sgt. Donald Keil wrote in the affidavit.
Four other teens pleaded no contest and were sentenced to probation earlier this month for their alleged roles in the mass rapes, which were reported by The Daily Beast in March 2017. That month, 13 La Vernia High School students—many of them varsity athletes on the football and basketball teams—were arrested over allegations that they sodomized their younger teammates using deodorant bottles, cardboard rods, flashlights, soda bottles, pipes, and baseball bats.
The assaults became so routine, according to mothers of purported victims and court documents, that boys who were promoted to varsity teams began showering with underwear on in an effort to deter their assailants. There was so much ripped, bloody underwear shoved down drains that it clogged the pipes in the locker room, two La Vernia mothers told The Daily Beast in 2017.
In the weeks after the arrests, students at the school, many of them athletes, were calling the victims “rats and snitches,” The Daily Beast previously reported. At least one student even expressed support for the accused boys by wearing a T-shirt to school with Robert Olivarez Jr.’s face on it.
The four other defendants who pleaded no contest were juveniles at the time of the alleged crimes, and their names have not been publicly released, said the Texas Attorney General’s Office. The judge who sentenced the boys earlier this month reportedly called the case “a tragedy of society” while approving each of the plea deals. The boys were each given five years of probation and at least 100 hours of community service, KENS5-TV reported.
Separately, four men—all now 20 years old—were indicted by a Wilson County grand jury in June on the charge of engaging in organized criminal activity. They were identified as Alejandro Ibarra, Dustin Norman, Colton Weidner, and Christian “Brock” Roberts. All four of them have consistently denied their involvement in the alleged crimes and pleaded not guilty.
Despite these updates in the case, the 13 accused boys—many of them now men—have been free on bail during the 30 months since the arrests, running into victims and their families at the local H-E-B grocery or beloved Texas fast-food chain Whataburger.
Another plea hearing in the case is scheduled for Nov. 26, and two civil lawsuits filed by survivors—including a teenage basketball player who has said he was raped more than 30 times in just five months—have been consolidated and are set for trial in February 2020.
In the meantime, many the victims’ families have left town, including Michelle*, whose son was a gifted player on the high-school football team, she told The Daily Beast earlier this month. After living in La Vernia for years, her family moved just six months after the scandal broke.
“I’m still angry about the whole thing and I want them to pay for what they did,” she said, after the first four boys were sentenced.
Unfortunately, La Vernia is not alone.
An Associated Press investigation two years ago uncovered at least 70 cases of high school sports-related sexual-assault incidents in just five years, beginning in 2011.
At Hamilton High School in Chandler, Arizona, at least six boys were allegedly raped by their older teammates during “initiation” rituals aimed primarily at freshman players, The Arizona Republic reported in 2017. Documents showed that administrators at the school were aware of the allegations of sexual assault and repeatedly failed to notify police, according to the newspaper.
In 2018, four ex-football players at an Oklahoma high school were charged with second-degree rape by instrumentation over the alleged abuse of a teammate. Prosecutors said school leadership waited eight days to report the crime.
Earlier this month, in Gilroy, Calif., The Mercury News reported a sexual assault allegation involving a high-school football team. In that case, the allegation was almost immediately relayed to administrators and officials at the district, who notified police. The accused students were arrested, suspended from school, and issued juvenile citations for sexual battery. Administrators canceled the rest of the season, according to the newspaper.
“The No. 1 rule in coaching is you never leave kids alone,” Central Coast Section Commissioner Duane Morgan told The Mercury News. “That’s coaching 101 right there.”
*Michelle’s identity has been concealed to protect the identity of her son, an alleged sexual-assault victim.