A Clovis Unified school panel Thursday night recommended expulsion for a Buchanan High School wrestler accused of sexual battery against a teammate.
The decision came after the first public airing of a case that has provoked a furious community debate over when an aggressive move in sports becomes a crime. Preston Hill also faces a criminal trial on the sexual battery charge. The trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 27 in Fresno County Superior Court.
A top prosecutor -- Chief Deputy District Attorney Rudy Carrillo -- attended the hearing and took notes.
Nobody disputes that Hill, a senior, performed a "butt-drag" maneuver on a freshman teammate during a July practice at Buchanan. But on Thursday, his coach and several teammates insisted that the 17-year-old would never intentionally hurt another wrestler. The parents of the alleged victim, meanwhile, were just as adamant that their son had been bullied by Hill and that he was fearful of retaliation at school.
Hill was charged with sexual battery after Clovis police reported that he allegedly rammed two fingers into a teammate's anus.
Though Hill denied the allegation, the Clovis Unified School District suspended him, pending the outcome of an expulsion hearing.
The three-member panel included retired Clovis school administrators Steve Weil and Dan Kaiser, as well as school psychologist Denise Segal. The panel's unanimous recommendation will now be submitted to the school board, which has 10 working days to hold a hearing and vote whether to uphold, modify or reject the panel's recommendation.
Thursday's hearing took nearly 11 hours in a small room at Clovis Unified headquarters. Hill's supporters, as well as those supporting the alleged victim, packed the room.
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