By Victoria Cavaliere
SEATTLE (Reuters) - Four Seattle-area teenage athletes pleaded not guilty on Friday to charges of attempted rape stemming from an attack with a broom on a special needs student in a high school locker room in what authorities have described as an apparent hazing incident.
A total of five teens, ages 14 and 15, have been charged in connection with the October incident at Juanita High School in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland, the King County Prosecutor's Office said. The fifth juvenile will be arraigned on Monday.
The five teens, members of the freshman football team, are accused of luring the 17-year-old student to a shower room where they pulled down his pants and underwear and attempted to sodomize him with a broom handle, according to charging documents.
Investigators said the assault appeared to be part of a hazing ritual, and the teens had exchanged text messages planning the attack on the older student, who is enrolled in the school's special needs education program.
"Although the incident does not appear to have been sexually motivated, the charges reflect that the attack involved an attempted or threatened penetration with a broom handle while one student was restrained by several others," said Dan Donohoe, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office.
One of the accused students recorded the incident on his cell phone, witnesses told police. The assault was stopped when other students walked into the area, charging documents said. The victim's aunt reported the incident to police.
The teens entered their not guilty pleas to attempted rape in the second degree in King County juvenile court.
All five of the accused have been expelled from school amid the ongoing criminal investigation, the Lake Washington School District said in a statement earlier this month.
The school has also changed locker room policies to ensure an adult is always present when students are using the facility, the statement said.
(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Beech)