Northern Minn. football player arraigned on sexual assault charge; incident led to school canceling season
A judge placed Alec Baney on pretrial supervision and ordered evaluations to determine if he should be tried as an adult.
DULUTH — A former Proctor High School football player was arraigned Thursday on a sexual assault charge stemming from a September incident that led to the cancellation of the team's season.
Alec John Baney, 18, made his first appearance in juvenile court via Zoom after he was charged by summons in January with third-degree criminal sexual conduct.
A delinquency petition alleges that Baney, who was 17 at the time, used the handle of a toilet plunger to assault a 15-year-old teammate while the victim was being held down by others. Rumors of the alleged assault led to significant community and social media reaction, a lengthy police investigation and the resignation of the team's coach, among other effects.
Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Korey Horn filed a motion ahead of Thursday's hearing asking the court to certify Baney to stand trial as an adult. Judge David Johnson ordered a psychosexual evaluation, individual family assessment and certification study to be performed before the court makes that determination.
Baney, accompanied by his parents, appeared from the office of his attorneys, Andrew Poole and Brent Olson. Poole told the court that his client understands his rights and the process. He waived any challenge to the sufficiency of probable cause as part of the certification process.
Poole asked that the court allow Baney to remain free without any conditions, but Johnson sided with Horn in placing the teen on pretrial supervised release.
"Given the nature of the offense, I do believe supervised release is appropriate," the judge said. "I think it'll also be helpful for Mr. Baney to have somebody guiding him — a second set of eyes guiding him through the process."
Under Minnesota law, it is presumed a juvenile will be certified as an adult if the juvenile was 16 or 17 at the time of the offense and if the offense would result in a presumptive prison sentence. The child can keep the case in juvenile court and overcome the presumption of adult certification only by demonstrating clear and convincing evidence that retaining the proceedings in juvenile court serves public safety.
Juvenile court records and hearings are public when the child is 16 or older and charged with a felony-level offense.
A certification hearing was tentatively scheduled for March 31, pending the completion of the evaluations.
The alleged sexual assault occurred Sept. 7 and was reported to the Proctor Police Department on Sept. 16.
The petition states that a third party had sent a lewd photograph to a group of Proctor football players using the victim's phone and Snapchat account. That reportedly prompted a response that the victim was going to "get the plunger."
Court documents state that Baney, carrying a toilet plunger, was joined by several other teammates in surrounding the victim's locker after a varsity football practice. The victim ran out of the locker room toward the practice field as Baney and other players gave chase.
The petition states that the victim eventually was taken to the ground by one or more teammates and rolled over to his stomach. Baney then allegedly pulled down the boy's pants and assaulted him.
According to court documents, multiple witnesses said they believed Baney was joking until the moment he pulled down the victim's pants. After the alleged assault, Baney reportedly returned to the locker room and declared "I did it" and "I bet you guys didn't think I was going to do it."
Police said they learned through interviews with other players that the plunger had been used in the past to touch fellow members with the rubber end. But none of those incidents had been reported to involve acts of sexual assault.
Although the area was within view of a security camera, authorities said the system was not functioning during the time of the alleged assault. Investigators also said they were unable to identify anyone who acknowledged seeing a recording of the incident firsthand.
While the incident was to remain under investigation by Proctor police, the St. Louis County Attorney's Office has not announced charges against anyone other than Baney.