Wheaton College football player pleads guilty to reduced charge in hazing case

 
 
Updated 3/22/2018 6:00 PM
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  • Former Wheaton College football player Noah Spielman, right, walks into the DuPage County courthouse Thursday to plead guilty to misdemeanor battery in the school's 2016 hazing scandal.

      Former Wheaton College football player Noah Spielman, right, walks into the DuPage County courthouse Thursday to plead guilty to misdemeanor battery in the school's 2016 hazing scandal. Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • Noah Spielman

    Noah Spielman

  • Mark Sutter, the attorney for former Wheaton College football player Noah Spielman, speaks to the media after his client pleaded guilty Thursday to misdemeanor battery in DuPage County court. "We're trying to parlay this into a life lesson for others," Sutter said.

      Mark Sutter, the attorney for former Wheaton College football player Noah Spielman, speaks to the media after his client pleaded guilty Thursday to misdemeanor battery in DuPage County court. "We're trying to parlay this into a life lesson for others," Sutter said. Mark Black | Staff Photographer

One of five former Wheaton College football players charged in a 2016 hazing scandal pleaded guilty Thursday to a charge of misdemeanor battery in DuPage County court.

Noah Spielman, the 21-year-old son of former Ohio State and All-Pro NFL linebacker Chris Spielman from Columbus, Ohio, was sentenced to one year of conditional discharge requiring him to pay a $250 anti-crime fee and complete 100 hours of public service -- including 25 hours of speaking to youths about the dangers of hazing.

In September, a grand jury approved a nine-count indictment against Spielman and four teammates charging aggravated battery, mob action and unlawful restraint in the hazing of then-teammate Charles Nagy.

On Thursday, prosecutors dropped the nine felony charges against Spielman in exchange for his plea to the misdemeanor count.

Spielman's attorney, Mark Sutter, thanked DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin for "keeping an open mind" and eventually agreeing to lower the severity of the charges against his client, whom he called a "man of faith and high integrity."

"We're trying to parlay this into a life lesson for others," Sutter said.

Spielman, along with Kyler Kregal from Grand Rapids, Michigan; Ben Pettway from Lookout Mountain, Georgia; Samuel TeBos from Allendale, Michigan; and James Cooksey of Jacksonville, Florida, are accused of abducting Nagy, now 21, from his dorm on March 19, 2016, putting a pillowcase over his head, tying him with duct tape, placing him into a pickup truck and driving him to a baseball field near Hawthorne Elementary School in Wheaton.

Prosecutors said the defendants are accused of repeatedly punching and kicking Nagy, kicking dirt on him and then leaving him partially nude on the field.

"What started out as a harmless prank evolved into a two-year ordeal that taught my client a lot of valuable lessons," Sutter said outside court. "He accepts responsibility for what he believes is his limited involvement."

Nagy's attorney, Terry Ekl, said he and Nagy "concurred" with the agreement.

"We believe it to be a fair resolution of the case against Mr. Spielman," Ekl said. "The victim and his family believe it is important that this defendant has admitted his guilt and accepted responsibility for his actions."

Sutter said Spielman did not punch, kick or apply duct tape to Nagy. Spielman's involvement in the hazing, his attorney said, included standing by an elevator door and holding it open while his teammates brought Nagy down from his dorm room to the pickup truck, helping carry Nagy from the truck to the field and kicking dirt onto him.

Sutter said none of Spielman's actions caused bodily harm to Nagy, but under a legal theory of accountability, his client accepted responsibility and pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor battery charge.

Each of the players previously pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Cooksey and Pettway are both next due in court on April 4. Kriegel and TeBos are both due next on May 8.

Kriegel's attorney, Paul DeLuca, said Thursday he still has "at least 10 or 15 subpoenas out" and does not expect his client to look for a similar deal from prosecutors.

"We want to get all of the evidence first before we even think about a plea like this," DeLuca said.

Sutter said Spielman's plea and sentence Thursday from Judge Brian Telander does not affect the cases of the other defendants. He said it also does not affect a lawsuit Nagy filed last week against Wheaton College, the school's football coach and all of the players charged, except Spielman.

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