A 17-year-old former Tallmadge High School football player convicted of raping a teammate with a plastic straw during a hazing incident was denied an appeal in which he claimed the act was impossible to achieve.
Robert Underwood, who received probation for the offense after his conviction in March in Summit County Juvenile Court, was seeking to overturn the conviction, which forces him to register as a sex offender for life.
The Akron-based 9th District Court of Appeals denied his appeal today, taking the side of Underwood's accuser who said a plastic drinking straw was used to penetrate his anus once or twice for up to eight seconds while he struggled against several teammates.
Underwood's attorneys argued that there was no evidence of a rape and that the victim was initially unsure whether penetration occurred when interviewed by police.
The appellate court, however, found that ''[the victim] testified at trial without equivocation that penetration occurred,'' Judge Lynn Slaby wrote in a unanimous 3-0 decision. ''[The judge] could reasonably conclude from the evidence at trial that a rape had occurred as a result.''
Under Ohio law, a rape occurs when an object penetrates an orifice, no matter how slight, with force sufficient to complete vaginal or anal intercourse.
Underwood, who was found guilty of juvenile delinquency charges of rape and hazing in connection with the incident, apologized to his victim when he was sentenced.
The victim, who was 15 at the time of the incident, testified that he was accosted by several teammates in August 2007 after football practice. He said he was forced to the ground, his pants were pulled down and he was jabbed repeatedly in the buttocks with a plastic drinking straw.
Underwood also was ordered to undergo an alcohol assessment and treatment program, to write a letter of apology and make amends to the victim and his family and to perform 40 hours of community service.
In March, a 17-year-old Tallmadge senior was found not guilty of a delinquency charge of complicity to commit rape but guilty of hazing in the same incident.
In December, a 17-year-old pleaded guilty to a delinquency charge of disorderly conduct. He was given 40 hours of community service and other sanctions.
Last November, charges against a 16-year-old were dismissed by recommendation of the prosecutors.
Two other players, one 16 and one 17, each pleaded guilty to one delinquency charge of hazing. They were given 40 hours of community service and ordered to write a five-page essay on bullying.
Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or firstname.lastname@example.org.