Dietrich superintendent to step down; judge faces investigation

The superintendent at the embattled Dietrich School District will resign at the end of the school year.

Meanwhile, the Idaho Judicial Council will investigate a complaint against the judge who presided over a grisly sexual assault case involving students at Dietrich High School.

The two separate developments came Thursday, less than two weeks after one former Dietrich football player was sentenced to probation and community service on a reduced charge for his role in the attack on a teammate. John R.K. Howard was originally charged with sodomy, and was one of three students charged with using a clothes hanger to assault a black, mentally disabled teammate. He later was sentenced on a charge of felony injury to a child.

Superintendent Ben Hardcastle will resign when his contract expires at the end of the school year, the Twin Falls Times-News reported. Hardcastle announced his resignation in a prepared statement that did not mention the October 2015 assault.

“I am extremely grateful to the community of Dietrich for the great trust that you have shown me in allowing me to serve the school district,” he told The Times-News.

Last week, The Associated Press reported Hardcastle launched an in-house investigation of the assault. He interviewed the suspects and some of the 27 potential witnesses to the attack, and waited four days before notifying the sheriff’s department, the AP reported.

The judicial council issued a terse three-sentence news release announcing its investigation.

“The Idaho Judicial Council has received a complaint against District Judge Randy J. Stoker involving the recent case of State v. Howard in Lincoln County, Idaho,” the release reads, in part.

The Times-News reports the investigation stems from a complaint from Monica Ryan, a Caldwell teacher who has gathered more than 175,000 signatures on an online petition demanding Stoker’s ouster. The petition focuses on the sentence in the Howard case, The Times-News reported, but Stoker has also come under fire for saying race did not play a role in the attack.

The three suspects in the attack are white.

The judicial council has the authority to investigate complaints of judicial misconduct, and can recommend that the state Supreme Court “retire, discipline or remove” a judge.

The Dietrich case continues to play out in court. The two other suspects face charges in juvenile court; those cases are sealed. Meanwhile, the victim’s family has filed a $10 million civil lawsuit against the district.