Warren De La Salle releases detailed timeline of alleged football hazing incident, investigation
Three suspended students suing school; head coach no longer with program
WARREN, Mich. – Warren De La Salle has released a detailed timeline of the alleged football hazing incident and investigation that has the school facing a lawsuit from three suspended students and left it without a head football coach.
Three students -- an 18-year-old and two 16-year-olds -- who have been suspended since Nov. 4 in connection with the hazing investigation are suing De La Salle, claiming they were discriminated against because of their race. They are also accusing school President John Knight tried to blackmail them to implicate others and conspired to spread false information.
Hours after the lawsuit was announced, school officials confirmed to Local 4 that head coach Mike Giannone is no longer with the school.
This all stems from what’s being called a “hazing incident” during an Oct. 19 team dinner, officials said.
Many of the younger players knew the hazing was coming, so they ran from their teammates, officials said.
Warren Police Commissioner Bill Dwyer said an investigation revealed the students allegedly held a victim to the floor of the locker room and used a broom during the incident.
Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith said the victim in the case didn’t want the case to go forward and refused to be interviewed by police.
Special Prosecuting Attorney Michael D. Wendling, of the St. Clair County Prosecutor’s Office, has been appointed to the case, officials said.
Warren De La Salle sent Local 4 their version of the timeline of events, which you can see below.
- In the early afternoon, while traveling out of state, Knight received a phone call from a member of the school community informing Knight that that football players had been hazed with a broomstick in the locker room.
- Knight immediately consulted with the school’s attorney, who advised that the school needed to do a quick investigation.
- After speaking to the school attorney, Knight informed Principal Nate Maus and scheduled a call with him and Athletic Director Mike Watson to discuss the attorney’s recommendations and next steps. The decision was for Watson and Assistant Principal Brent Widdows to interview all senior football players the next day.
- Knight reached out to the Board of Trustees leadership to let them know about the reported incident and next steps.
- In the morning, the senior football players were called to the chapel. Brother Robert Deary stayed with the seniors in the chapel while Widdows and Watson brought each player to another room for individual discussions.
- The players were given the opportunity to go to the counseling office to make and sign a statement of what they did or did not know about the broomstick incident(s).
- By late afternoon, Watson communicated to Knight that yes, indeed, the broomstick incident was substantiated by a number of senior football players. It had happened and was still happening.
- Watson sent an email to football parents letting them know there was a report of an alleged hazing incident and they were questioned individually.
- A decision was made late Tuesday to interview the alleged victims, who were understood to be juniors.
- That evening, Knight, who was still traveling, received a call from another parent whose son was scheduled to be hazed with a broomstick, but had gotten out of it with the help of some senior players.
- Knight called board leadership to update them on the recent news.
- Knight was notified by Maus that a student provided a statement that he was hazed with a broomstick -- specifically held down against his will and jabbed, with clothes on, very hard with a broomstick in his rectal area, his legs, and thighs. He named three senior students as the assailants.
- Knight and the Board of Trustees held a conference call to discuss the matter, during which the board directed him to contact the authorities. They also discussed hiring a private investigator to do a wider investigation of how the alleged hazing incident(s) were permitted to occur and why they occurred, as well as policies and procedures to prevent hazing behaviors in the future. Additionally, during the call, Knight was told to contact a parent who works in the Macomb County prosecutor’s office for his guidance on next steps with the police.
- Knight reached out to the parent, who recommended that he should contact William Cataldo, a Macomb County prosecutor.
- Knight called Cataldo, who recommended he should speak to Warren police Detective Jim Twardesky, who is with the Special Victims Unit in the Warren Police Department.
- At 8 a.m., Knight left his first voicemail message for Twardesky.
- Knight received a phone call from a parent of a current sophomore, who claimed that his son was scheduled to go up to varsity for the playoffs and was scheduled to be hazed with a broomstick in September, but was able to get out of it.
- Knight called together his complete leadership team (Maus, Widdows, Watson, Geraldi, Dean, Rhea-Johnson, Roose, Esler) to update them.
- Giannone stopped by Knight’s office. During their conversation, Giannone mentioned that he told his captains to tell the team to “knock off the horseplay.”
- Knight met with Maus and Vice President Joe Gerardi, and the three of them agreed that the school should not play in the playoff game. There was a growing cloud of uncertainty about the football program that they, in good conscience, could not put De La Salle football players on the field the next day.
- Knife in school incident: During the lunch hour, De La Salle had a separate issue involving a young man in possession of a paring knife. The young man apparently went to the Wigs and Masks room and brandished the knife, showing a couple of his friends. One of those friends called 911 and the Warren Police Department showed up. The school went into lockdown. The young man was taken into custody and in due process with his legal advisers and parents. He is no longer a student at De La Salle. This was in no way connected to the football issue, and the young man was never bullied as, unfortunately, it was characterized in the news media.
- At 1:46 p.m., an email was sent to families via the school’s Student Information System, alerting them of the lockdown.
- Knight, Maus and Gerardi then met with Watson and Giannone to inform them that the school was going to forfeit the game. Based on the current information, the school could not let the players go in the locker room and on the field – in good conscience – and represent De La Salle.
- At 2:50 p.m., Knight held a brief faculty and staff meeting to inform them of the decision to forfeit the playoff game and the rationale behind it.
- At 3 p.m., Knight met with the varsity football players and coaches in the gym to share the decision with them.
- At 3:44 p.m., an email was sent through the SIS, informing families of the decision to cancel the rest of the football season.
- Before 4 p.m., Knight received a call from a parent who said her son received a threat that during the school’s All Saints Day liturgy, individuals wearing masks would ‘pop up and kill everybody.’ The decision was made to close school on Friday. Warren Police were immediately notified, and they arrived on site to begin an investigation.
- Shortly after 4 p.m., Knight called Twardesky for a second time and left him a voicemail.
- Sometime between 4 and 4:30, Knight called Cataldo to let him know that he hadn’t heard back from Twardesky. Cataldo said he would call back in 15 minutes. Cataldo never called back.
- At 4:58 p.m., another email was sent home to families alerting them that Friday’s classes were cancelled.
- Knight called Kevin Kijewski, superintendent of Catholic Schools, to inform him of two things: 1. The threat of violence against the school, which Kijewski acknowledged and said that Catholic Central had the same threat; and 2. The decision to forfeit the football game. Kijewski patched in Vic Michaels, director of the Detroit Catholic High School League. Kijewski was very supportive and grateful for the call. Michaels wanted to know if De La Salle knew of this before the state’s playoff draw and whether the school could have played the playoff game with freshmen and JV players. Knight’s answer was no to both questions.
- Dwyer was quoted in the media saying that the school was not cooperating with Warren police. Knight called Dwyer right away and made it clear that De La Salle was fully cooperative and had reached out to the officials who they were advised to contact (Twardesky).
- Twardesky returned Knight’s phone calls and asked him to meet with him at police headquarters. Knight and Gerardi met with Twardesky and two other police officials to outline the situation and answer questions.
- Based on the allegations, Maus, Widdows and Knight agreed to suspend the three students who were the alleged assailants. Maus, Dean and Widdows called the students’ families Nov. 3 to inform them of the suspension until further investigations were completed.
- Knight and Maus sent an email to families with an update of the three incidents that occurred Oct. 31.
- Knight received a call from Warren Police Sgt. Greg Booton, requesting to come to De La Salle to interview all of the varsity football players. Maus and Knight cooperated with Booton, and it was agreed that no young man would be interviewed without permission from their parents. Booton and four detectives arrived at school at 1 p.m. to conduct their interviews.
- At 3:57 p.m., Maus sent an email through SIS to inform families of the new safety measures in place at school, which included additional security in the building, and the Counseling Department’s Traumatic Event and Crisis Intervention team prepared a teachers’ tool kit and information session for students.
- Warren Police concluded their interviews with students, coaches and staff.
- Maus called Kenny Spear, Executive Director of Positive You, a social and emotional learning program, to discuss an assembly focused specifically on anti-hazing and anti-bullying. Maus had been in discussions with Spear before these incidents came to light regarding a series of student enrichment programs.
- Booton called to inform Knight that the police were going to turn over their findings to Smith.
- Knight and Maus met with Giannone to notify him that he was being put on paid administrative leave. These incidents had happened to the team under his watch for an alleged long period of time. He could not continue to oversee student activities until further investigations were conducted.
- Smith recused his office from the De La Salle case, stating that a senior assistant prosecutor on staff could be a potential material witness in the investigation.
- Maus sent an email to families about the investigation into the alleged hazing.
- The Board of Trustees hired Rehmann Corporate Investigative Services to conduct a thorough investigation into the football program.
- Maus officially engaged Positive You to host student assemblies throughout the 2019-2020 school year.
- The Board of Trustees hired Van Dyke Horn, a Detroit-based public relations firm that excels in crisis communications.
- Knight and Maus sent an email to families through the school’s SIS with an update on the investigation, as well as to let the community know of the independent investigation and the school’s partnership with Positive You.
- Wendling was assigned the hazing case.
- Positive You conducted an assembly with students and faculty. Additionally, about 10 parents signed up for a Positive You seminar to be scheduled for January.
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