Raucous party lands football standout in legal trouble


By Justin Wier

jwier@vindy.com

STRUTHERS

A standout Struthers High School football player will appear in court Feb. 28 facing charges of assault, witness intimidation and other charges after accusations that he slapped two drunken juveniles and doused them with maple syrup at a November house party.

Nathan Richards, 18, of Deer Creek Drive, faces four counts of assault, two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and one count each of aggravated trespassing, criminal damaging and witness intimidation. Only the witness intimidation charge is a felony.

The police report identified 13 people who attended the party – some of whom shared videos of Richards’ actions on Snapchat, a mobile phone app. The mother of one alleged victim received the video and alerted Struthers police, according to the report.

Several witnesses corroborated the allegations that led to charges.

The witness intimidation charge stems from a phone call a witness made to Richards during an interview with police.

Officers heard Richards say: “Why the [expletive] you saying [expletive], bro,” and “I’m really gonna have to beat your [expletive].”

The second victim was identified through witness interviews.

Richards also is accused of assaulting that person’s brother, the report said. The brother had tried to halt Richards’ actions.

The police report detailing the assault was created Nov. 20. The report was not released until Nov. 29, a day after law director John Zomoida approved charges against Richards.

The incident came to light Sunday after Richards earned a post-season football award, which sparked several complaints on social media.

Richards was named a first-team selection to the All-American Conference White Tier All-Star team as selected by the conference’s head coaches. This vote took place in November – before the party.

Players were honored Sunday at the Curbstone Coaches’ annual football banquet at Mount Carmel Banquet Center, Youngstown. The Vindicator, in cooperation with the Curbstone Coaches, produces certificates recognizing players in various Valley conferences.

Richards still attends school but is not currently participating in any athletic activities, a district spokeswoman said.

She said because the incident did not happen on school property, it did not enact any academic sanctions.

She did not respond to a question about whether Struthers discussed rescinding the all-conference award.

Superintendent Pete Pirone said, “Any Struthers student-athlete at the party was disciplined under the athletic code of conduct.” Pirone refused to specify how many athletes received discipline, or who they were.

The Vindicator is seeking a list of all athletes who were punished.

The alleged victim’s mother questioned allowing Richards to attend school.

“Kids [who] get bullied or hazed or harassed or have something dramatic happen, this is why kids kill themselves,” she said.

She stressed that her son was not suicidal.

Richards has a pretrial hearing scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Feb. 28 in Struthers Municipal Court.

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