Provo High School Hazing Leads to Felony Charges for Teen Wrestler

Salt Lake City criminal lawyer

Provo High School student Luis Antonio Castellanos has been charged with multiple misdemeanor and felony offenses in connection to an alleged wrestling team hazing incident occurring on Monday, October 26. On November 3, roughly a week after the incident, Castellanos was charged in 4th District Court with three counts of hazing (a Class B misdemeanor), one count of attempted forcible sexual abuse (a third degree felony), two counts of forcible sexual abuse (a second degree felony), and three counts of aggravated kidnapping (a first degree felony).

Provo HS Student Charged with Sex Crimes, Kidnapping, Hazing in Initiation Ritual

Castellanos was arrested by the Provo Police Department on Thursday, October 29, three days after the incident allegedly took place. The police affidavit reports that when the wrestling team’s practice session ended on October 26, Castellanos and a second, unnamed student were instructed by a third, unnamed student to pin several younger team members to the floor.

During the 15 minutes which followed, Castellanos and the second student allegedly placed their bare buttocks over the face of an unnamed 15-year-old wrestler, repeating the process twice, leading to multiple counts of forcible sexual abuse. Because he struggled against Castellanos and the second student, a 16-year-old team member was released before any physical contact was made, leading to the single count of attempted forcible sexual abuse.

Among the many sex crimes Utah differentiates between, Castellanos was charged with forcible sexual abuse because the offense is defined as “tak[ing] indecent liberties… with intent to cause substantial emotional or bodily pain… without the consent of the other.”

Utah is one of 44 states to have adopted hazing laws over the past several decades. The anti-hazing policy currently posted on the Provo School District’s website matches the broad definition supplied at the state level by Utah Code § 76-5-107.5, which, at its most general, describes hazing as the reckless or deliberate “endanger[ment of] the mental or physical health or safety of another.” More relevant to this particular case, however, are the specific grounds that hazing occurs when a person is subjected to “extreme embarrassment, shame, or humiliation.”

young man getting arrested and handcuffed

It may seem strange that Castellanos is being charged with aggravated kidnapping when the incident took place entirely within the school, but that’s only because most of us have an inaccurate mental image of what kidnapping looks like. Hollywood paints a dramatic picture, but in real life, kidnapping almost never involves snatching someone into a van. From a legal standpoint, all that’s necessary is that a person “restrains the victim for any substantial period of time” (provided the restraint is illegal, intentional, and goes against the victim’s will). The reason the charges are aggravated is that the kidnapping also involved a sex offense.

Castellanos was booked into the Utah County Jail, where he is currently being held on $20,000 bail. His next hearing is scheduled to take place Tuesday, November 17. Castellanos does not have any prior arrests.

Utah County Prosecutors May Try Juvenile Co-Defendants as Adults

At age 18, Castellanos is legally an adult. However, because the other two defendants are both minors, they could potentially be tried as juveniles or adults. As of November 6, the Utah County Attorney’s Office has yet to announce whether it will seek adult certification for the Castellanos’ juvenile co-defendants.

Utah’s “Serious Youth Offender” law (SYOL), which comes from Utah Code § 78A-6-702, allows juveniles to be tried as adults when the charges involve any of the following felonies:

  • Aggravated Arson
  • Aggravated Assault
  • Aggravated Burglary
  • Aggravated Kidnapping
  • Aggravated Robbery
  • Aggravated Sexual Assault
  • Attempted Aggravated Murder
  • Attempted Murder
  • Felony Discharge of a Firearm

Since one of the charges in this case is aggravated kidnapping, prosecutors have the option to try the juvenile defendants in district court, which normally hear felonies, serious misdemeanors, and civil matters.

closeup on man in handcuffs

Juveniles are normally tried in juvenile courts, which are civil, not criminal. Therefore, juvenile courts do not convict upon a guilty finding, but rather adjudicate delinquent. When a juvenile is adjudicated delinquent, he or she may be placed on probation, placed under state supervision, placed into a community program, or, in the most severe cases, placed into a “secure facility,” which functions similarly to a jail. (According to the Utah Department of Human Services, the average stay in a secure facility is about nine and a half months.) Juveniles can also be fined, be required to perform community service, and/or be required to pay restitution to the victim(s) of the offense.

If the co-defendants are tried as adults, they will go through the same court system – and risk the same consequences – that an adult defendant would face.

The penalties for aggravated kidnapping, the most serious offense Castellanos has been charged with, range anywhere from 15 years to life in prison. However, the law also provides for a reduced sentence of 10 or potentially six years in cases where the court “finds that a lesser term… is in the interests of justice.” If convicted, Castellanos’ young age and clean criminal record may be grounds for such a sentence.

An arrest during the teenage years can create serious problems when it comes to getting accepted into college, getting approved for student loans, and finding employment. If your son or daughter has been charged with juvenile crimes in Utah, it is critically important to ensure that his or her Constitutional rights are being aggressively protected by an experienced criminal defense lawyer.

Attorney Darwin Overson has more than 16 years of experience handling thousands of misdemeanor and felony cases in the Salt Lake City area, including shoplifting, vandalism, underage drinking, and rape. For a free, completely confidential legal consultation with Darwin, call the law offices of Overson Law, LLC at (801) 758-2287 today.

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