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Crime & Courts

Alleged hazing victim sues Wheaton College, accused players

Lawsuit charges college ignored hazing incidents

Kyler Kregel of Grand Rapids, Mich.; James Cooksey of Jacksonville, Fla.; Samuel TeBos of Allendale, Mich.; Noah Spielman of Columbus, Ohio, and Benjamin Pettway of Lookout Mount, Ga., have been charged with aggravated battery, mob action and unlawful restraint in an alleged 2016 hazing incident at Wheaton College.
Kyler Kregel of Grand Rapids, Mich.; James Cooksey of Jacksonville, Fla.; Samuel TeBos of Allendale, Mich.; Noah Spielman of Columbus, Ohio, and Benjamin Pettway of Lookout Mount, Ga., have been charged with aggravated battery, mob action and unlawful restraint in an alleged 2016 hazing incident at Wheaton College.

WHEATON – The victim in an alleged 2016 hazing incident at Wheaton College is suing the college and the players involved in the incident.

Charles Nagy, now 21, alleges he was injured during the March 19, 2016, incident, causing him to undergo two shoulder surgeries and prematurely ending his football career. Nagy reported receiving serious injuries when he was attacked by five members of the team and left in a field with his limbs secured with tape.

"He was attacked by the suspects in a dorm room where he was subdued with tape," Wheaton Deputy Police Chief William Murphy previously said in an email. "His arms and legs were bound and a hood placed over his head. During this [time] his shoulders were injured. They dropped him off in a nearby baseball field."

The suit was filed March 16 in DuPage County Circuit Court by his attorney, Terry Ekl. The players – Kyler Kregel of Grand Rapids, Mich.; James Cooksey of Jacksonville, Fla.; Samuel TeBos of Allendale, Mich.; Noah Spielman of Columbus, Ohio; and Benjamin Pettway of Lookout Mount, Ga. – have been charged with aggravated battery, mob action and unlawful restraint. Spielman is the son of former NFL player Chris Spielman.

Wheaton College student athletes Daniel Ibsen, Nick Blazeck and Tyler Sigle also are named as defendants in the suit. Nagy is seeking more than $50,000 in damages from Wheaton College and the other defendants, plus the cost of the suit.

As part of the incident, the players allegedly began "playing middle-Eastern music and making racially and religiously offensive comments about people of the Islamic faith and/or of Middle-eastern ethnicity while speaking in Middle-Eastern accents,'' the lawsuit states.

In addition, the suit states the players, acting individually or together, allegedly "made statements about having sex with a goat and that 'they had their goat right here,' while patting the plaintiff's foot to imply he was the goat."

According to the suit, on March 20, 2016, one or more of the alleged attackers knew Nagy was moving his things out of his dorm and planning to leave Wheaton College. The suit states one or more of the defendants then notified Wheaton College head football coach Mike Swider.

"Rather than promptly turn the matter over to the college’s investigatory and disciplinary apparatus to preserve the integrity of any criminal or disciplinary hazing investigation of his own football players, Mike Swider set about a plan to cover up the hazing," the suit states.

Swider allegedly then spoke with one or more of the defendants to concoct a story blaming the alleged victim, saying he was a willing participant, he exaggerated what had happened and none of the players were out to hurt him, according to the suit.

"Mike Swider made numerous efforts immediately to contact and speak with the plaintiff and his father, directly and indirectly, to try to calm plaintiff down so as to prevent him from reporting this incident to anyone and to convince him to return to the school," the suit states.

The suit also alleges Wheaton College has overlooked or ignored hazing incidents among student-athletes about "which it knew or should have known, including prior hazing by kidnapping within the football team."

It also accuses the college of failing to properly and independently investigate incidents of hazing, including prior hazing by kidnapping within the football team, and "failing to meaningfully discipline individuals engaging in hazing practice, creat[ing] an environment wherein members of the football team believed they could engage in such violent and criminal conduct without consequence."

In a statement, Wheaton College officials denied the allegations.

"We take the allegation that any member of our community has been mistreated in any way to be a matter of grave concern," the statement reads. "We strongly deny that the college has allowed a permissive environment of hazing or violence, and are confident that it will not be found to have legal responsibility. Wheaton College is committed to providing Christ-centered education in a positive environment for every student. The Board of Trustees, President Ryken, and the college administration, faculty, and staff remain committed to this goal."

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