Officials at the State Center Community College District, in Fresno, Calif., are remaining tight-lipped after as many as 10 men, some of whom are football players at district colleges, were questioned by police officers over the weekend in an alleged rape of an 11-year-old girl Saturday.
Police have arrested two students who attend Reedley College, one of the colleges in the district, in connection with the incident. Eight other people, some of whom attend Reedley or Fresno City College and play football for one of the colleges, were identified as "persons of interest."
Michael Idiart, a Fresno-based lawyer and friend of the football coach at Fresno City College, said he spoke to seven of the football players for about 30 minutes Sunday to explain child molestation laws and other legal issues.
“They were calm,” Idiart said. “Some had concerns that if they weren’t involved, it would harm their reputation and their academic lives. They don’t want a cloud hanging over their heads as some are trying to play in Division I.”
Idiart said he didn't speak to individual players about whether they were involved in the alleged incident. After the meeting, the head coach drove the players to the Fresno Police Deparment, where they explained their side to officers, Idiart said.
Jerry Dyer, chief of the Fresno Police Department, told The Fresno Bee that the incident is "a tragedy on two fronts. Number one is that you have an 11-year-old victim that was obviously taken advantage of by a number of individuals and sexually assaulted. What heightens the tragedy is the fact that these are individuals that we believe to be attending our local colleges and involved in our athletic program, playing football for at least one of these colleges."
Police say the victim went to an apartment complex in Fresno to visit a friend. While inside, she was allegedly assaulted by several men. The girl reportedly fled the apartment, which reportedly is arranged housing for members of the Fresno City College football team, and then called police.
The victim and another juvenile had run away from a Fresno group home, police said. The second girl might have been with the victim at the apartment complex in question and might have socialized with the suspects, although police don't believe she was a victim of sexual assault. The 11-year-old girl has been placed in an undisclosed location and was treated for what police called "minor injuries."
Two Reedley students, Mackey Davis and Eddie Scott, were arrested Saturday night at the house where the alleged incident took place. They face two felony sex charges, including child molestation.
“Fresno City College and Reedley College are cooperating fully with the Fresno Police Department regarding this incident,” the district said in a statement. “The colleges will assist the police department in any way possible as they continue their investigation.”
There was no mention of a suspension or imminent disciplinary action by the colleges.
“This is a phenomenon,” said Earl Smith, a professor of sociology at Wake Forest University who has written about athletes, race and gender. “This isn’t an isolated incident. It’s a example of the hyper-masculinity phenomenon in sports.”