Clifton Bennett, 18-year-old son of Arizona state Senate president Ken Bennett, and his friend, 19-year-old Kyle Wheeler, were charged in January of 18 counts of aggravated assault and 18 counts of kidnapping. The charges refer to incidents which occurred at a boys’ student government leadership skills camp in June of 2005, at which Bennett confesed that he and Wheeler sodomized several 11- to 14-year-old boys with broomsticks and flashlights in 40 separate incidents.
Wheeler has an additional assault charge based on his choking three boys until they passed out.
Yesterday, the pair was offered a plea agreement that will include no record of sexual assault; they will likely receive 90-day jail sentences, though the judge could reduce the charges and give them no jail time at all.
According to the victims’ parents, the boys are having some type of colonic difficulty, they are sleeping with their clothes on, are afraid at night, and have received sexual assault-related counseling. However, the prosecutor told the judge that the “broomsticking” was a “hazing ritual” and a punishment for breaking rules, not sexual assault. The assaults, he said, were not viewed as sexual in nature because the prosecution could not prove that the perpetrators had “sexual intent.” One has to wonder how this prosecutor does with other rape cases.
Bennett is an honor student and an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. If convicted of a felony, he would not be allowed to go on a planned church mission in September.