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Two ex-players on California high school football team accused of sex crimes

By Michael Martinez and Elwyn Lopez, CNN
updated 10:33 PM EDT, Tue September 17, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Both boys played on ranked football team of Vista Murrieta H.S. outside Los Angeles
  • One boy faces charges of rape, lewd acts, false imprisonment
  • The other boy faces unspecified "sex-related crimes"
  • Alleged victims were female students, including one under age 14

Los Angeles (CNN) -- Two 17-year-old California boys who played on their high school's nationally ranked football team have been charged with off-campus sex crimes against female students, including, in one case, a pupil under age 14, a prosecutor's spokesman said Tuesday.

Both boys, who attend Vista Murrieta High School in Murrieta, appeared Tuesday in a juvenile court in Riverside County, according to one boy's attorney and a prosecutor's spokesman. The judge ordered the boy facing more serious charges to be detained in juvenile hall and released the other to his parents, the attorney and spokesman said.

The two defendants remained enrolled as students, but school administrators told parents that the two boys aren't allowed on campus pending the outcome of the charges against them, officials said.

The alleged victims are girls, all minors, and they are still enrolled as students on campus at the Murrieta Valley Unified Schools, located outside Los Angeles, said district spokeswoman Karen Parris.

CNN's policy is to not name juveniles being tried in Juvenile Court, even though prosecutors in these cases have released the boys' names.

One boy appeared Tuesday in Juvenile Court to face sex-related and other charges involving a total of six alleged victims, all girls.

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The boy facing more serious accusations is charged with two counts of rape by force of fear, which involves two alleged victims; two counts of lewd acts on a child under age 14, which involves an alleged third victim; three counts of false imprisonment, which allegedly involves three additional victims; and one count of dissuading a witness, who was one of the alleged rape victims, said John Hall, a spokesman for Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach.

The boy's hearing was scheduled to be made public Tuesday, but at least one alleged victim's family requested that it be closed, and the judge agreed, Hall said.

The other boy is being charged with "sex-related crimes," but authorities didn't specify the charges Tuesday, Hall said. However, at least one charge against him is classified as a serious or violent felony, Hall said.

The attorney for the boy facing more serious charges couldn't be immediately reached for comment Tuesday.

The other boy's attorney, Miles Clark III, told CNN that his client was released by the judge to the supervision of his parents.

"The allegations against my client are that he had consensual sex with another minor. There are no allegations against my client that he has any charges of forcible rape," Clark said. "My client comes from a great family. They are very supportive of him."

The two defendants are friends, Clark said. His client's next court date is October 24, Clark said.

The other boy's court date is October 30, and the judge didn't rule Tuesday on whether that hearing would be closed to the public, Hall said.

The alleged sexual assaults occurred off-campus, and the police investigation began August 29, said Murrieta police Lt. Tony Conrad.

Authorities told school officials that the alleged rapes had gone on for nearly a year, but the school system became aware of the alleged crimes through police on August 28, Parris said.

Coley Candaele, coach of the Vista Murrieta High School Broncos football team, said one of the two defendants was "removed" from the team in August -- the same month that Murrieta police began their investigation -- but he declined to state which defendant.

The other defendant "quit before the season started," Candaele told CNN.

The Vista Murrieta football team has been extensively covered in local media because it was ranked No. 2 in California before the season started in a USA Today High School Sports Super 25 rankings, according to the Riverside Press-Enterprise. At the start of this season, Candaele's team is 91-23 in his nine seasons, and it was 13-1 last year, the newspaper said.

School officials will hold a discussion with the football team, Parris said.

"What I can tell you is that the actions of these two students certainly don't represent the 3,500 students at this school who are doing the right thing every day," Parris said.

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CNN's Michael Martinez wrote this report in Los Angeles.

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