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Counselors sentenced for summer camp hazing

/ Source: The Associated Press

Two teenagers were sentenced Friday to at least a month in jail for poking young boys in the buttocks with broomsticks while working as counselors at a summer camp.

Clifton Bennett, 18, and Kyle Wheeler, 19, were accused of poking the boys over their clothing with broomsticks, a flashlight and a cane as a punishment or just because they were in a bad mood.

Bennett, the son of a powerful state senator, was sentenced Friday to 30 days in jail. Wheeler received 45 days.

Bennett apologized, telling the judge he had compromised the campers’ “ability to live their lives.”

The teens pleaded guilty to assault last month. Prosecutors dropped more serious charges of kidnapping and aggravated assault, sparing them from the possibility of decades in prison.

Although the 18 victims wore underwear or swim trunks during the so-called “broomings,” photos taken by fellow campers showed them grimacing in pain.

Prosecutors rejected demands from parents that they press sexual assault charges, saying there was no sexual intent or penetration. One prosecutor called the attacks “hazing gone wrong.”

Some parents suggested the plea deal was tied to Bennett’s father, Ken Bennett, president of the Arizona Senate. The elder Bennett and the prosecutor denied the presence of any political pressure.

In addition to the jail time, the two teens were ordered to perform 200 hours of community service and spend three years on supervised probation.

The victims, ages 11 to 14, were junior high school standouts and student council officers from across Arizona who had been hand-picked to attend a weeklong leadership camp.