Although a Mesa football player was booked on 70 counts related to a team photo that shows him exposing himself, the number of charges could be reduced or dropped, police and prosecution officials said.
Hunter Osborn, 19, was arrested Saturday. Officers said he told authorities he was dared by a Red Mountain High School teammate to do the stunt when the photo was taken on the school bleachers in August.
Copies of the yearbook were distributed before school officials were aware of the revealing shot, and the photo was included in programs sold at football games in the fall, police said.
Mesa police booked Osborn on one count of furnishing obscene material to minors, a felony, and 69 counts of indecent exposure. Ten faculty members and 59 students were present when Osborn exposed himself and are considered victims, according to police and court documents.
Jerry Cobb, a spokesman with the Maricopa County (Ariz.) Attorney’s Office, said Tuesday that the office had received the recommended charges from Mesa police. The charges could be accepted, rejected or modified once the county attorney reviews the recommendation, Cobb said.
Mesa police spokesman Nik Rasheta said the number of potential counts could be altered if people present during the photo session speak out against their individual counts.
An individual could call the case agent, and if the person was 18 years old, could request that the misdemeanor charge be dropped on his or her behalf. Since some of the football players were minors, their parents or guardians could request a charge be dropped on their behalf, Rasheta said.
Rasheta said no one else would face charges in the matter.
Since Osborn’s arrest was announced by Mesa police Monday, a stream of supportive tweets from students and adults using the #FreeHunter hashtag have protested the potentially life-changing charges against him. The general theme: It wasn’t the smartest thing to do, and he has to take responsibility, but the charges seem excessive. Osborn told police he was “disgusted” by his actions, records state.
A Change.org petition created by user Alex Labban was launched Monday and had garnered more than 1,670 signatures by 6 p.m. Tuesday. It argues that responsibility for the distribution of the photo should fall on the school, not Osborn.
“Red Mountain High School is using him as a scapegoat instead of taking any responsibility,” the page states. “Hunter needs to be held accountable for his actions but that doesn’t mean ruining his life!”
Red Mountain senior Erin Lambert, 17, said students were talking about how funny Osborn’s prank was before any charges were recommended.
“I think he’s being punished too harshly, and that’s the general consensus I hear from everyone else at school,” Lambert said. “I think he deserves to be punished, but the punishment here doesn’t fit the severity of his crime.”
Osborn’s next court appearance is scheduled May 16 at Maricopa County Superior Court’s Southeast Regional Court Center in Mesa.