Charges dropped in Hamilton Co. against 4th Carmel player
Hamilton County - Charges have been dropped against a fourth player in the Carmel High School locker room assault case.
The Hamilton County prosecutor filed a motion to dismiss misdemeanor charges against Brandon Hoge Tuesday. A grand jury indicted Hoge on three counts, including battery and criminal recklessness stemming from a locker room incident. The third count involved a January 22nd incident on a team bus.
Hoge, 19, was the last man standing in the locker room assault case. The other three defendants in the so-called Carmel hazing case had struck plea deals with prosecutors, all getting probation and community service. Robert Kitzinger agreed Monday to a deal similar to the ones already taken by former teammates Scott Laskowski and Oscar Falodun.
But on Tuesday, Hamilton county prosecutors abruptly dropped the misdemeanor battery and criminal recklessness charges against Hoge.
"We had a sense probably a month or two ago that this case was probably our weakest case," said Sonia Leerkamp, Hamilton County prosecutor.
That's because, according to the prosecutors, Hoge was in a classroom when the second victim in the case was assaulted in a Carmel High School locker room. Hoge, along with Scott Lazkowski, Oscar Falodun and Robert Kitzinger were indicted by a grand jury in May.
When asked if it was known five months ago that Hoge was not in the locker room at the time of the assault, Leerkamp replied, "Not for sure. We were still sorting some of those things out."
Prosecutors say that it was after dismissing battery charges against Hoge and Kitzinger for an assault on a student on team bus in Hendricks County that they began to rethink the remaining charges against Hoge, ultimately deciding the case was weak.
Prosecutors said as recently as Monday that they were still negotiating a plea agreement in Hoge's case. The teenager's lawyer said on Wednesday that his client shouldn't have been implicated at all.
"The Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office yesterday filed a motion to dismiss all charges against Brandon Hoge regarding the alleged locker room incidents. We were aware that Mr. Hoge was not in the class where the alleged actions occurred. He was in a ceramics class and nowhere near the locker rooms. We were confident all along in our case and were surprised that he was charged in relation to any events alleged to have taken place in the locker room. Though we are pleased with this development, we are needless to say dismayed that my client was falsely implicated in this matter to begin with," said Jim Crum, attorney for Hoge.
With his legal troubles over in Hamilton county, Hoge and Kitzinger still face battery charges for that alleged bus assault in Hendricks County. They are accused of holding a freshman player down and assaulting him on the team bus in January.
The probable cause affidavit states that the freshman boy told police Kitzinger sat on his head while he "felt a hand go into his 'butt'." Other players also reported witnessing the assault.
Tuesday, Hendricks County Prosecutor Pat Baldwin said key minutes of bus videotape were missing.