Prosecutor: No charges in De La Salle hazing inquiry
The St. Clair County prosecutor said Tuesday he cannot file criminal charges in a hazing incident at Warren De La Salle Collegiate High because of a lack of cooperation from school officials, victims and families.
In a statement, Prosecutor Michael D. Wendling said charges "cannot be substantiated" in the October 2019 incident, in which football players at the Macomb County Catholic school alleged other athletes had physically abused them. “The lack of evidence is a result of multiple circumstances that are beyond our control,” he said.
An investigation into the hazing allegations was turned over to Wendling's office on behalf of the Michigan Attorney General's Office when the Macomb County Prosecutor's Office recused itself because of a perceived conflict of interest.
“While we are confident that a criminal incident did occur we do not have admissible evidence to move forward with prosecution,” Wendling said.
Wending said that by the time the Warren Police Department was contacted about the incident, “important evidence has already been lost or destroyed.” He noted police were not contacted until the school had done its own internal inquiry, adding that “documents and reports” created by the school “have been withheld by administrative staff at advice of legal counsel.”
“Further, the majority of the coaching staff has declined to speak with police upon the advice of counsel,” Wendling said. “While all three suspects share one attorney, multiple attorneys represent the school and staff.”
Wendling said staff meetings and board meetings where the incident and discipline of the students/suspects was addressed “were not open to the general public and no minutes or discussion notes have been provided.”
“The non-cooperation from the De La Salle staff is especially upsetting considering they are the people who have an obligation to protect these children and are mandated to report any misconduct,” the prosecutor said.
Wendling said besides reports provided by the Warren Police investigation, his office has attempted to independently review allegations and interview suspects and victims.
“There have been concerns of pressure by parents, students, staff members and other regarding cooperation as it relates to this criminal investigation,” he said.
Warren Police Chief William Dwyer said his investigators were hampered by a lack of cooperation from the school, which is mandated by law to report such incidents to police.
“I believe the prosecutor supported all of our concerns,” said Dwyer. “I also think this underscores that some form of (school) administrative change and policy is needed so something like this doesn’t happen again.”
Wendling advised anyone with additional information about this or future incidents to contact Warren police.