Just because the De La Salle football hazing victim won’t talk, doesn’t mean charges won’t be filed, a prosecutor said Friday.
After agreeing to take the De La Salle hazing case, St. Clair County Prosecutor Michael Wendling sought to clear up a public misunderstanding: He can charge the suspects, he said, even if the victim doesn’t want that to happen.
That’s been the case thus far in the Warren De La Salle hazing scandal, which abruptly ended the football season last month after allegations surfaced that teammates held a player face-down on the locker room floor while another sexually taunted and prodded him with a broomstick. There was no penetration.
According to police, the victim has refused to talk, and, doesn’t want charges brought.
Wendling said that doesn’t matter.
“That is not a determining factor for our office going forward,” Wendling told the Free Press on Friday. “If there’s a crime and we can prove it, and we feel that charges are justified, we will go forward.”
Wendling, who plans to announce a charging decision next week, said it’s not uncommon for prosecutors to try cases without a victim’s testimony.
“We do it all the time,” Wendling said. “There are a lot of crimes where victims are apprehensive about testifying … if it’s viable and we can go forward without a victim, we will do that if justice requires that. But we’re also cognizant of the victim’s wishes.”
Wendling’s comments contrast with those of Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith, who recused his office from the case due to a conflict of interest and expressed some skepticism about the case.
“If the alleged victim does not wish to go forward — well, that would normally be the end of the case right there,” Smith told the Free Press earlier this month. “If we don’t have a victim on an assault and battery case, you don’t have an assault and battery case.”