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Norman North Wrestlers Plead Not Guilty To Rape Charges After School Bus Assault

Norman Public Schools bus
Jacob McCleland

Four Norman North High School wrestlers pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of sexually assaulting two other wrestlers last month.

They appeared in Garvin County District Court with their parents and attorneys. 18-year-old Tanner Shipman, 17-year-old Sage Gandenberger, and 16-year-old Chase Smith face three counts of rape by instrumentation.

Prosecutors say a 12-year-old and a 16-year-old were both raped on a bus as the wrestling team returned from a tournament.

17-year-old Hunter Oren Matthews is charged with one count of rape by instrumentation, and is only accused of assaulting the younger victim.  Court affidavits indicate the assaults took place as the junior varsity wrestling returned from a tournament in Pauls Valley, The Oklahoman’s Jane Glenn Cannon reports:

The 16-year-old high school student was assaulted first on the bus and then the 12-year-old middle school wrestler was assaulted, the affidavits state. The 12-year-old was assaulted a second time after the bus arrived at Norman North High School, according to the affidavit. The evidence against the four includes a video from a surveillance camera on the bus. Prosecutors specifically allege the four used their fingers in anal attacks on the two fellow wrestlers.

A preliminary hearing for the four has been set for April 14 at 9 a.m. Shipman is being charged as an adult, the other three as youthful offenders.

Norman Public Schools says the four suspects have been suspended, one coach was fired and a second coach resigned after being suspended.

On Tuesday, NPS Superintendent Joe Siano said the school has changed its travel procedures during student activities, and increased supervision so students can be seen at all times. The district is also expanding training sessions and increasing video surveillance equipment on district buses.

“We continue to implement sexual assault prevention education programs in our schools and previously implemented procedures have prepared us to take swift action in these cases,” Siano said in a statement.

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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