Racism, Rape and Football in Dietrich, Idaho

John R.K. Howard

John R.K. Howard

UPDATE: On Friday, February 24, 2017, District Court Judge Randy Stoker sentenced John R.K. Howard to three years probation and 300 hours of community service. Stoker withheld judgment, which means the charges could one day be dismissed against Howard. So it worked out for him and the town of Dietrich, Idaho. As for the victim of the sexual assault, not so much.


Dietrich, Idaho has a population of about 200. The biggest thing going for it is its school and high school football team – the Blue Devils. On the town’s website, it says that the school is the focus of most community activity, with athletic rivalries with neighboring towns Shoshone and Richfield “becoming intense at times.” So it’s safe to say, Dietrich likes its high school football players, even going so far as to protect racists and rapists.

On October 22, 2015, three white Dietrich High Blue Devils football players brutalized and sexually assaulted a black teammate who is mentally disabled. According to court documents, here’s what happened in that high school locker room.

One of the victim’s football teammates, pretended to hug him, but instead of a hug, he held the young black man down while two other white students sodomized him with a coat hanger. According to court documents, John R. K. Howard rammed a plastic hanger into the victim’s rectum and Tanner Ward, reportedly kicked the hanger several times, forcing it further into the victim’s body. The attack required hospital treatment and traumatized the victim, who is now suing the school district for $10 million.

Howard appears to have been the ringleader in what amounted to months of verbal, psychological and physical abuse of this vulnerable young black student. Howard and his buddies repeatedly called the victim “nigger” and at one point forced him to sing a racist KKK song. While attending a football camp, Howard beat the black teammate so badly that he was knocked unconscious at one point. Many of these incidents took place while football coaches watched, and in some incidences, like the violent beating, encouraged Howard’s behavior, according to court documents filed by the victim in his civil case against the school district.

All of the evidence, including numerous witness statements about the violent, racist, abuse and bullying behavior was presented to prosecutors, yet Howard recently was allowed to plead guilty to a lesser felony than he deserved, will likely face no jail time and if he stays out of trouble, even that felony will disappear too. Deputy Attorney General Casey Hemmer said Howard’s behavior was “egregious,” but it was not a sex crime.

“We don’t believe it’s appropriate for Mr. Howard to suffer the consequences of a sex offender,” Hemmer said in court reported Boise Weekly. “It’s not our belief that this was a racially motivated crime. This was more of a vulnerable victim-motivated crime. I think it probably would have happened to anybody that was in the same kind of circumstances and mental state as the victim here.”

After months of targeted verbal, physical, and psychological abuse that culminated in anal rape, the state of Idaho doesn’t think the perpetrator should be treated too harshly. All folks need to do is not be around Howard, because if they can’t roll with his abuse, well, I guess, as far as the state of Idaho is concerned, you asked for it.

Howard will be sentenced early next year, but it does not appear justice will be served in this case, as is too often the reality when a white man brutalizes a black person in America.

Check back, because I’m still on this case. It’s a miscarriage of justice.

Update October 3, 2017: Federal lawsuit against the school district was reportedly settled for an undisclosed amount of money. You can read the story about it here.

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