Colton Weidner, 20, and Christian “Brock” Roberts, 21, on Tuesday became the sixth and seventh defendants to plead no-contest to felony charges of unlawful restraint in the La Vernia High School case. They were sentenced to five years deferred adjudication, reported The San Antonio Express-News. A no-contest plea, to be clear, is an acceptance of the court’s punishment but not an admission of guilt.
The Daily Beast previously reported that Weidner and Roberts were indicted in June on charges of engaging in organized criminal activity, but their charges were lessened as part of their plea agreement with the Texas Attorney General’s Office, the Express-News reported.
The June indictments claimed that on at least five different occasions Roberts and Weidner sodomized four different boys—juveniles identified as #119, #97, #39, and #112—with their fingers, and at one point a flashlight, between Nov. 15, 2016 and Feb. 1, 2017.
Both men may avoid a conviction on their records if they successfully complete the terms of their probation, which reportedly includes 350 hours of community service each and a $1,000 fine each. The judge said Weidner and Roberts may ask the court for early release of their probation when they complete the community service and pay the fines. Afterwards, they may request to have their cases expunged, reported the Express-News.
Weidner’s lawyer, Stephen Barrera, reportedly defended the light sentences on Friday: “A lot of the guys that were accused are also victims.”
The case began in March 2017 when 13 students were arrested following an outcry by one of the victims. The subsequent investigation pulled apart the 1,200-person town and eventually dragged in state agencies, including the Texas Attorney General’s Office and the Texas Department of Public Safety, to take over for local police.
Last month, Robert Olivarez, Jr. pleaded no contest on the same charge of unlawful restraint after he was accused of holding down a 16-year-old while raping him with the threaded end of a carbon-dioxide tank, according to an affidavit filed at the time of his arrest. The four boys who pleaded before him were juveniles at the time of the assaults and have had their identities shielded from the public eye. Two more plea hearings are set for Dec. 16.
Despite the gruesome nature of the alleged crimes, no one has spent time behind bars.
Alejandro Ibarra, 20, and Dustin Norman, 20, were indicted with Weidner and Roberts by a county grand jury in June on charges of engaging in organized criminal activity. They each pleaded not guilty and denied involvement in the alleged crimes.
As The Daily Beast reported last week, the alleged perpetrators aren’t the only ones who could face consequences. The coaches responsible for the victims’ safety were accused in federal lawsuits of at best turning “a blind eye toward the abuse, even after the abuse was reported to them” and at worst ignoring an assault after allegedly walking in on it. Four of the five coaches who were named as defendants—Brandon Layne, Richard Hinojosa, Chris Taber, Keith Barnes, and Scott Grubb—are still coaching in La Vernia and elsewhere in the Lone Star State.
The lawsuits eventually dropped the coaches as defendants but will go forward as one consolidated suit against the school district. The case is set to go to trial in February 2020.