Haverhill High Head Football Coach, Assistant Coach, 18-Year-Old Charged in Hazing Assaults

In the dock at Haverhill District Court are, from left, Jesse J. Rodriguez, Coach Timothy M. O'Connor and Assistant Coach Michael J. Kwegyir-Attah. Standing in front is attorney Eric S. Goldman, representing O'Connor. (WHAV News photograph.)

Haverhill High School’s head football coach and assistant coach, both accused of covering up an indecent assault on students during hazing incidents between last August and October, and an 18-year-old who allegedly participated in the attack were formally charged Tuesday in Haverhill District Court.

Coach Timothy M. O’Connor, Assistant Coach Michael J. Kwegyir-Attah and Jesse J. Rodriguez were ordered by Judge Sarah Joss to return to court Feb. 9. Forty-eight-year-old O’Connor, and 27-year-old Attah were each charged with intimidating a witness and failing to file a mandated child abuse report. O’ Connor was also charged with failing to file a hazing report. Eighteen-year-old Rodriguez was charged with assault and battery, hazing and indecent assault and battery on a person 14 or older at Haverhill Stadium. Essex County District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett’s office said five more juveniles will be separately charged. Prosecutor Alyssa Thibault described one of the alleged assaults.

“Jesse, the defendant before the court, was alleged to have approached the victim, held him down and rubbed his bare behind on the victim’s head during one of these incidents. The victim in that case described that he was screaming for help and that he was very afraid because he couldn’t breathe out of his nose and his chest was getting tight. He was begging them to stop and he had that body weight again pinning him down,” she said.

When multiple videos surfaced in November, Haverhill School Superintendent Margaret Marotta referred the matter to police and the state Department of Children and Families, cancelled the Thanksgiving football game, placed the coaches on paid administrative leave for the duration of the investigation and hired an outside investigator.

The assistant district attorney said the coaches conduct suggested a trend.

“I am very concerned about the nature and the circumstances of this offense because it appears to be a pattern at this point of three separate incidents of hazing at the Haverhill High School which is completely unacceptable. Two of the defendants who are before the court were staff members. They were coaching staff at the school. These are individuals that are essentially responsible for the safety, the well-being of their players, the students that they work with. And the very concern that when they were confronted with videos showing that they have students teaming up in numbers against each of these young, alleged victims and using force to indecently assault them, their reactions were not to file a 51A (child abuse report). Their reaction was not to report this,” she said.

Attorney Michael Chandler disputed a charge his client, Kwegyir-Attah, gave another student a ride home and tried to discourage him from reporting an incident. Chandler argued the conversation never took place. Likewise, Attorney Eric S. Goldman said that while O’Connor’s voice is heard yelling “hey” during a video, he was aware only of kids “fooling around” following a spaghetti dinner, but not of any assault. Goldman concluded, “the school is looking for a scapegoat.”

Joss ordered $750 cash bail for O’Connor, $350 for Attah and $200 for Rodriguez. She also ordered O’Connor and Attah to stay away from Haverhill High School and have no contact with victims, witnesses or members of the football team or coaching staff and not participate in any coaching.  She also told Rodriguez to stay away from Haverhill High School and have no contact with the victims and others charged, no use of social media and no participation in organized sports.

In a statement following the arraignment, Marotta said, “The video evidence in this situation is disturbing. At its root, hazing is meant to cause harm, discomfort, embarrassment, humiliation and ridicule. It leaves our athletes questioning what is right and wrong and confused about whether to speak up due to conflicting allegiances. Hazing instills fear. For those courageous students, families and staff who have spoken up, thank you.”

Comments are closed.