A trial date has been set in Oregon for a former Thunder Mountain High School football coach accused of knocking a player unconscious during a boxing match at a football camp there state in 2012.
John Wahl appeared with his counsel, Ashland attorney Jonah Morningstar, on Wednesday in Curry County Circuit Court before Judge Jesse Margoles. He entered a plea of not guilty.
Wahl was arraigned on one count of criminal mistreatment, a class ‘C’ felony punishable with up to five years in prison, and one count of assault in the fourth degree, a class ‘A’ misdemeanor that carries the possibility of a year in jail. A 12-person jury trial was set for April 16-17.
Oregon District Attorney Everett Dial declined to comment on the case. He told the Empire in a previous interview that he had planned to dismiss the case, citing budget cuts and a lack of funds to bring the alleged victim to Oregon. Dial reversed course after an article published in the Juneau Empire resulted in positive financial support.
“After the article went out, apparently a lot of people read it, and some have called us to say they will raise money to fly the boy down here,” Dial told the Empire.
Dial said his original motion to dismiss without prejudice was signed and ready to be delivered when calls of support began coming in. Dial instead called defense attorney Morningstar to say he would be pursuing the charges.
Wahl could not be reached for comment.
The youth’s father, Richard Weir, said Dial called his son and said he would be flown to Oregon a day before the trial is to start. He believes Wahl was wrong to enter a not guilty plea and “needs to be a man about it and just tell the truth and just get it over with.”
“My son knows that John Wahl should be held accountable for his actions, just as my son is for his actions now,” Weir said.
Weir’s son has been housed in a youth home after getting into trouble following the 2012 incident.
“We are expecting (him) home sooner than we had hoped,” he said. “It has been a long and lonely time for him.”
Weir said 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, which his son paid $1,200 for using his Permanent Fund Dividend check and fundraising.
Wahl and Falcons head coach Bill Byouer were removed from their teaching positions at Floyd Dryden Middle School after a video of the 2012 boxing incident went viral at the end of the 2013 school year. In the video, Wahl is seen boxing with a then-14-year-old incoming freshman while the team was at a football camp in Gold Beach, Ore. The student at one point turned his back to Wahl after receiving several blows, at which time Wahl threw a hard right 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. Byouer previously said he was unaware about what transpired.