HENDRICKS COUNTY, Ind. (WISH) - Strong words were used and a new round of accusations came out on Wednesday in the Carmel bullying and assault case. I-Team 8 broke open the investigation on one of the year's biggest stories nearly a year ago.
As one former senior pleaded guilty to battery on Wednesday, his father says the victim lied and says the bus video will prove it. In a plea deal, Brandon Hoge pleaded guilty. He gets 180 days of probation, 40 hours of community service, a $1 fine plus $164 in court costs and must write a letter of apology to the victim.
Now a student at Purdue University, Hoge refused comment on the way out of court. But in court he read an apology statement:
"I can assure there was absolutely no malice in my actions. At the time, I truly believed this was normal everyday athletic team horseplay. After reflecting, I came to realize how I could have put a teammate in a situation in which they were uncomfortable."
He went on, apologizing to his peers, the team, Carmel High School and Carmel itself for the negative media attention. Afterwards, the victim's mother said finally her son is recognized as a victim. The victim released a statement saying he's having a hard time with forgiveness. I-Team 8 anchor Karen Hensel asked his mother if she was happy with the outcome.
"For the first time my son is acknowledged," said the victim's mother. "Even if not a full admission, it's still an admission. He will never be what he was before, though."
Hoge's father spoke at a news conference and released a corresponding typed statment .
"We absolutely will not apologize for what did not happen on the bus," Craig Hoge said .
Craig Hoge says he can now talk about what he calls the other side of the story. He says the bus video shows the 14-year-old freshman victim has on at least four layers of shorts and sweatpants at all times as he is called to the back of the bus by seniors. The allegation has been the seniors held him down and sodomized him with their fingers.
"You will see him laughing; you will see him smiling; you will see him after he goes to the front of the bus get up and do a dance and have the biggest smile a young man can have on his face," Craig Hoge said. "It certainly does not jive with a person involved in a violent attack."
I-Team 8 anchor Karen Hensel asked Craig Hoge if the victim was held down.
"I don't want to talk about the specifics because, again, there is a case that is pending," Craig Hoge responded.
That pending case is of former senior Robert Kitzinger, and it's scheduled to go to trial Feb. 15. A few minutes after the assault, Hoge's attorney says the victim got up on the bus and crossed the aisle.
"He punched another student three times," attorney Jim Crum said. "Coaches yelled at him to sit down, he sat down."
I-Team 8 anchor Karen Hensel asked if they were making fun of the victim for what just happened.
"The battery you see with him is the worst battery on the bus," Craig Hoge said.
After repeatedly talking about the credibility of the victim, I-Team 8 anchor Karen Hensel asked the attorney and Hoge's father if they believe the victim lied.
"I'm going to say it certainly appears that is the case," Crum said.
Crum calls the bus assault simple horseplay.
"People are going to see this video and they are going to say seriously, this is what this has been about for the last 11 months?" Craig Hoge said. "It is nothing but a bunch of kids laughing and horsing around — horseplay in a classic sense in a high school setting on a bus."
Crum said it started as boys being boys in the locker room and the four of the boys thinking it was funny. Crum admitted a judge said in court that the situation had been going on for a long time.
"He said this has been going on a long time and whether it is right or wrong, in this day and age you can't engage in that kind of activity anymore," Crum said.
The mother of the fourth Carmel senior, Robert Kitzinger, was also in court and watched the press conference silently. Since day one of breaking the investigation, I-Team 8 has asked repeatedly for nearly a year to see the video tape from the bus that night. Those requests continue to be denied, though I-Team 8 is told it's being considered.
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