Two of the three boys involved in the East High School football hazing incident reached plea deals Monday.
The boys pleaded guilty to reduced charges of sexual battery, a class A misdemeanor, and simple assault, a class B misdemeanor.
The deal was announced during a pre-trial conference held before their trials were to start Wednesday. In court Monday, both boys offered apologies for their actions.
"I want to say I'm sorry. I want to say sorry to the victims and the victims' families and my family," said one.
In September, three members of the East High School sophomore football team, all 15 years old at the time, were charged in 3rd District Juvenile Court with forcible sodomy, attempted forcible sodomy and forcible sexual abuse.
The Deseret Morning News does not print the names of defendants charged in juvenile court.
The three incidents happened in the boys locker room after football practice. On Monday, Judge Sharon McCully made sure the boys understood that what they did went beyond traditional hazing.
"What may have seemed like locker room horse play or hazing can actually be seen as first-degree felonious behavior," she said. "It went too far when it started."
McCully told the teens it was never OK under any circumstances to restrain someone and subject him to physical or verbal abuse. She hoped other athletes would look at this case and realize the practice of hazing, no matter how many years it has been happening, needs to stop.
"We are finally at a point in our society ... that this is not OK. It's not acceptable," she said.
Two of the boys were represented by the same attorney. The third boy's case was being handled by a different attorney in a different courtroom.
As part of Monday's plea deal, the two teens agreed to testify against the third defendant. They also were sentenced to 100 hours of community service, ordered to write letters of apology to the three victims and given suspended 30-day sentences in juvenile detention with credit for time served. McCully lifted the home detention penalties the boys had been on for three months since their arrests. The boys also were ordered not to have contact with the victims or their families, with the exception of the letters they have to write, which will be delivered by someone else.
"I don't see this behavior as sexually motivated," McCully said. "I don't see you as a sexual predator, just a stupid kid."
The three boys no longer attend East High School.
In court Monday, the boys told McCully what had happened. Both said they were told to hold the victims. Both said they did not know what was going to happen next and both stressed they at no point took their pants off.
The plea deal was reached in part because the victims of the hazing also wanted to see the case come to an end because they did not want to testify in court, according to state attorneys. Both sides agreed the case had been very difficult on all sides involved because of the intense media attention it had received, causing humiliation to the victims, which McCully said at that age is sometimes worse than the actual crime.
Defense attorney William Russell filed a motion before Monday's hearing to have all proceedings closed to the public because of what he called irresponsible coverage from certain TV stations that posted explicit details of the hazings.
McCully denied the motion, however, saying the media and public were more likely to get the story right if reporters were allowed to attend.
"My policy has always been that media is welcome in the courtroom until they prove themselves inconsiderate," McCully said.Because only print media were present Monday, McCully ruled the hearing would remain open, but agreed that all future hearings would be closed.