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Case against coach who knocked out player dismissed

Oregon DA cites lack of funds despite 'a strong case' against Wahl

Posted: November 19, 2013 - 12:01am
TMHS head coach Bill Byouer walks behind the Falcons' huddle before a game against Kodiak last season.
TMHS head coach Bill Byouer walks behind the Falcons' huddle before a game against Kodiak last season.

The investigation into a Thunder Mountain football coach who knocked a player unconscious during an unsanctioned boxing match at a football camp in Gold Beach, Ore., has encountered another twist.

Citing a lack of finances, Oregon District Attorney Everett Dial on Monday dismissed without prejudice the case against former Floyd Dryden teacher and Falcons assistant coach John Wahl.

“We did go ahead and file and got (Wahl) served,” Dial said. “He got an attorney down here, who indicated that they wanted to civilly compromise the case and I did not want to do that.”

Dial said that filing the motion to dismiss the case without prejudice does not end the matter.

“At this point we cannot get the juvenile down here,” Dial said. “And we do not have the money to fly him down.”

Based on the Gold Beach Police Department’s investigation, assisted by the Juneau Police Department, Dial charged Wahl with criminal mistreatment, a felony, and assault in the fourth degree, a misdemeanor.

Dial said he could re-file within two years for the misdemeanor charge and within three years for the felony charge, as long as the case is dismissed without prejudice.

“We are just going to have to play it by ear and see if either the juvenile can get down here or if we get a levy passed that maybe we can have the finances to bring him down. At this point, for monetary reasons, I cannot proceed with the case.”

Wahl and his Ashland attorney wanted to set the case to trial, according to Dial.

“From a practical standpoint I can’t proceed to trial without the youth,” Dial said. “He can’t appear by video or some other process without the defendant agreeing to it, and there is no reason they would do that. And we don’t have the money to fly him down, so that kind of ends it right there. Our budget is already pretty small; we’re the second lowest tax rate in the state. We’ve never had to actually live on our tax budget and we are expecting cuts within the next month or two.”

Wahl and Falcons head coach Bill Byouer were both removed from their teaching positions at Floyd Dryden after video of the boxing incident surfaced toward the end of the last school year. In the video Wahl is seen boxing with a then-14-year-old incoming freshman. The student at one point turned his back to Wahl after receiving several blows, at which time Wahl threw a hard blow striking the youth on the side and back of the head. After the teen fell unconscious to the floor Wahl could be seen parading in front of dozens of cheering football players with his arms raised in victory.

The student’s father told the Juneau Empire in a previous interview that his son experienced numerous problems following the boxing match with Wahl, including bullying, low self-esteem and fear of retaliation if he spoke up about what happened during the football camp. Byouer previously said he was unaware about what transpired.

According to the Oregon DA’s office, the staffing in their department is expected to be cut by 50 percent.

Dial said he would review the Empire’s Freedom of Information Act request for investigative reports on the case but said, “Usually we don’t give out police reports for a case that is potentially still pending. We might not give those to you.”

If funding improves, the option is open for Dial to pursue the case. Based on the video of the incident, the Oregon DA’s office felt there was enough evidence to file charges.

“It is a bummer,” Dial said. “It is a strong case for us. So if it becomes possible to file again I will.”

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