Essex County

DA: Haverhill High School coaches and player charged for involvement in hazing incidents

HAVERHILL, Mass. — Two Haverhill High School coaches and a player were charged for their roles in three alleged hazing incidents that took place over the course of nearly 2 months at the school, according to authorities.

48-year-old Timothy O’Connor, the head football coach, was charged with intimidation of a witness, failure to file a 51A, and failure to report hazing. 27-year-old Michael Attah, an assistant coach, was charged with intimidation of a witness and failure to file a 51A. 18-year-old Jesse Rodriguez, a player, was charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person 14 years of age or older, assault and battery and hazing.

All three men were arraigned Tuesday in Haverhill District Court.

The Essex County DA says that on three occasions between August 18 and October 12, 2022, hazing occurred at Haverhill High School athletic facilities targeting three different people. The coaches became aware of the hazing, according to officials, and failed to report it. Furthermore, the DA says the coaches either discouraged a victim from reporting it or encouraged the destruction of evidence.

Charges are also being sought against 5 juveniles as a result of the investigation, according to Haverhill Police.

O’Connor and Attah were ordered to stay away from Haverhill High School and have no contact with the victims, witnesses, or members of the football team and to not participate in any coaching. Rodriguez was ordered to stay away from the school and have no contact with the victims, no use of social media and no participation of organized sports.

O’Connor’s bail was set at $750, Attah’s was set at $350 and Rodriguez’s bail was set at $200.

In a statement, Haverhill Public Schools Superintendent Margaret Marotta thanks the students, families, and staff who spoke up and calls the hazing incident “unconscionable.”

“At its root, hazing is meant to cause harm, discomfort, embarrassment, humiliation, and ridicule,” Marotta said. “All forms of hazing and harassment are intolerable; hazing of this magnitude is unconscionable. For those courageous students, families, and staff who have spoken up, thank you.”

School administrators said police and DCF were immediately notified once they learned about the hazing allegations. The superintendent placed the coaches on administrative leave and brought in an external investigator to conduct a school-based investigation.

“While we cannot comment on the ongoing investigation or the pending criminal charges, let us be clear, a coach is, first and foremost, a teacher,” Marotta said. “The role of a coach is to set an example for the players, inspiring them to be better on and off the field. A coach’s primary responsibility is to ensure each student-athlete’s health and well-being.”

School officials have also enrolled the support of the Center for the Study of Sport and Society at Northeastern University, with the goal of helping student-athletes and coaches to become more inclusive, and promote sports as a way to bridge cultural gaps and resolve conflicts.

“We refuse to be defined by these events, and they do not accurately characterize the hundreds of other student-athletes and dozens of dedicated coaches within our school district,” said Marotta. “As we move forward to rebuild our football program and instill best practices for all our teams, the school system will continue to be intentional about the growth of our athletes on and off the field.”

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