Friday, October 06, 2006

LDS senator's son may go on mission after abuse incidents

Tucson Region
Official attacks media reports of 'brooming'
By Stephanie Innes
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 04.06.2006

The Yavapai County Attorney's Office is lashing out at media reports
of a case involving a state senator's son "brooming" 18 children in
the buttocks.
A recording at the office of Yavapai County Attorney Sheila S. Polk on
Wednesday said the media "grossly misrepresented" the facts and told
callers how to get copies of the police reports.
Polk also issued a written statement that was posted on her office's
Web site, saying the crimes were not sexual but rather "hazing gone
The youngest son of state Senate President Ken Bennett admitted in
court this week to assaulting middle-school boys, including three from
Tucson, with a broomstick in their buttocks.
Prescott resident Clifton Roy Bennett, 18, and Glendale resident Kyle
Matthew Wheeler, 19, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault for the
incidents and face sentences ranging from probation to two years in
Judge Thomas W. O'Toole of Maricopa County Superior Court accepted the
pleas and scheduled sentencing for May 12. O'Toole was assigned to the
case after two Yavapai County judges recused themselves.
Prosecutor James Landis has not said what sentence he will recommend.
Bennett's lawyer has asked that his client be spared from prison so he
can go on a mission with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints. Ken Bennett is a Republican from Prescott.
Bennett and Wheeler were junior counselors at a camp for the Arizona
Association of Junior High Student Councils, held at Chapel Rock Camp
in Prescott, when the brooming of the boys, 11 to 15, occurred.
Bennett was 17 at the time. According to police reports, Wheeler also
choked three of the boys until they passed out.
Victim lawyers and parents this week expressed outrage that the
charges were reduced from 18 counts of assault to one for Bennett and
from 18 counts to two for Wheeler. Under the terms of the plea
agreement, the judge also could classify the aggravated-assault
convictions as misdemeanors rather than felonies, which means the
teens could go on to become teachers or counselors and would never
have to disclose the incident.
Lynne M. Cadigan, a Tucson lawyer who is an advocate for two of the
local victims, says her clients were sexually assaulted and continue
to suffer shame and humiliation.
"The criminal-justice system traditionally has not treated male
victims of sexual abuse with the same seriousness as female victims,"
she said. "Now, some counties have moved on, but clearly Yavapai
County needs some training."
The father of one of the Tucson victims also says the court system
would have treated Bennett and Wheeler more harshly if the 18 campers
were girls.
Polk issued her statement following heightened media attention on the
case, as parents and their lawyers said Bennett was getting a deal
because of his father's position in the Legislature, and that he
should face sexual-assault charges.
"It is important that the public be aware of the real facts of this
case in order to make a more informed opinion of the actions of this
office," Polk wrote in her letter to the public, which was posted on
her agency's Web site. "It is important to the victims, the defendants
and the criminal-justice system. Once fully and accurately informed,
one may continue to disagree with the result. This is, after all,
Polk has not returned numerous calls about the case from the Arizona
Daily Star, dating to February. She also did not return calls or an
e-mail Wednesday.
Witnesses told police that the junior counselors lined up the
youngsters, told them to bend over and "broomsticked" them.
The victims told police "broomsticking" was done alternately with a
broom, a cane, a mop handle and a heavy-duty flashlight while they
were clothed.
The exact definition of broomsticking varied, according to witness
reports, from touching brooms to the boys' rectal areas to one
description of how a boy was held down and the witness said the
broomstick was "shoved" into his bottom.
Polk wrote that the counselors' conduct was inappropriate, but they
did not commit sodomy or child molestation.
Under Arizona law, a person commits molestation of a child by
"intentionally or knowingly engaging in or causing a person to engage
in sexual contact, except sexual contact with the female breast, with
a child under 15 years of age." Anyone convicted of child molestation
in Arizona faces lifetime probation and must register as a sex
● Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at 573-4134 or at

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