Judge cleared of misconduct in Dietrich assault trial

The Idaho Judicial Council has cleared the Magic Valley judge who presided over a trial against one defendant in a sexual assault in a Dietrich High School locker room.

In a unanimous ruling, the council cleared District Judge Randy Stoker of any wrongdoing in the trial of John R.K. Howard. Howard was one of three white Dietrich students charged in connection with a gruesome attack of a black, mentally disabled football teammate.

The three teammates were charged with attacking the teammate with a coat hangar, kicking the hangar into the rectum of their victim. The case divided Dietrich, and threw the rural farming community into the national spotlight.

The Idaho Judicial Council received three formal complaints against Stoker. At least one complaint questioned the sentence in the Howard case.

Howard was originally charged with forcible penetration by use of a foreign object, but later was sentenced to a reduced charge of felony injury to a child. Stoker sentenced Howard to probation and community service. In its news release Monday, the judicial council said it is responsible for reviewing complaints of judicial misconduct — and does not serve as an “appellate court.” The sentence — part of a plea agreement between prosecuting and defense attorneys — fell within statutory guidelines, the council said.

The council also rejected complaints challenging Stoker’s competence, and suggesting Stoker should have disqualified himself from the case.

Still pending is a $10 million civil lawsuit against the district and its administrators. The family of the victim alleges school officials knew — or should have known — about a pattern of harassment and violence that culminated in the October 2015 attack. The district’s defendants include Stefanie Shaw, a district principal who stepped into the superintendent’s role on July 1. (More about Shaw from Julie Wootton of the Twin Falls Times-News.)

 

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