Teen-sex scandal hits P.E.I. high school
Youth’s Major League Baseball career hangs in the balance
A trial involving sexual activity between high school athletes and pre-teen girls has been causing a stir in Charlottetown, P.E.I.
Cass Rhynes, an 18-year old recently drafted by the L.A. Dodgers baseball club, is accused of sexual involvement last year with two 12-year-old girls. He was still a high school student and they were in Grade 7. Testimony indicates that it was a common practice for high school-age athletes to meet regularly with Grade 7 girls for “hook-ups;” that is, brief encounters for oral sex. This took place in cars, church parking lots, vacant buildings, and homes, sometimes in private, sometimes not.
“It is very common (among my friends). It’s everywhere. It’s not really a big deal. It’s just casual,” said one of the girls on the witness stand. The practice came to light when a mother, overhearing part of a telephone conversation, contacted police.
The main organizer of these encounters, and an active participant himself, was a 17-year-old male who has pleaded guilty in youth court to charges of sexual interference with minors. Generally, he used the internet to communicate with a group of younger girls, including the 12-year-olds.
One testified that he was very persistent. “Eventually I just caved. I just gave in,” she said. Other girls were even less resistant. Some, apparently willing and enthusiastic, participated with a number of young men. Some were quite aggressive and persistent themselves.
Some lied about their age. In recent years, federal legislation has lowered the legal age of consent to 14. Although the 17-year-old organizer learned that the girls were only 12, he seemed unaware that a crime was being committed. He told the court, “If … there’s consent given, I thought it was okay … We didn’t discuss their ages and their grades. I figured he (Rhynes) knew what they were like.” At another time he spoke of the girls as “slutty.”
One of the young girls testified that each encounter with the older boys was very brief. They spoke very little, never kissed her, took her to movies or restaurants, or gave her anything. She also said no drinking, drugs or money were involved.
“Why did you do it?” asked Crown Attorney John MacMillan.
“I don’t know,” was the reply.
“Did you give any thought to whether it was right or wrong?”
On Oct. 22, Rhynes was found guilty on two counts of inciting girls under 14 to touch him for sexual purposes. The maximum sentence for the offence is 10 years. Defence lawyer John Mitchell said, “My client made a big mistake, but there’s a heck of a difference between making a moral mistake and making a criminal mistake.” They will appeal.
The court ordered Rhynes to undergo an assessment for sexual deviancy prior to sentencing on Dec. 17. Comments by teens interviewed by the CBC suggest that his behaviour is closer to the current student norm than to deviancy.
Many Islanders have found this case deeply disturbing, and consider the conduct and attitude of both the girls and the young men quite shocking. “Even if the girls were over 14, it would still be deplorable,” they say.
Others say it is a predictable consequence of the years of explicit how-to sex education and graphic TV and films, combined with a loss of stability in family life, decline in church attendance and disregard of moral standards.
Some, though, are more worried that this might jeopardize Cass Rhynes’ chance to ever play baseball in the big leagues. A criminal record could prevent him from crossing the border.