Denver Cheerleading Coach Who Forced Students Into Splits Will Not Face Criminal Charges
The Colorado high school cheerleading coach at the center of a police investigation after video surfaced of him forcing cheerleaders into painful splits will not face criminal charges in the incident
The Colorado high school cheerleading coach at the center of a police investigation after video surfaced of him forcing cheerleaders into painful splits will not face criminal charges in the incident, the Denver District Attorney’s Office announced in a press release.
According to the release, the decision not to charge Ozell Williams was made after a “detail investigation” by the Denver Police Department, which included interviews with cheerleaders, their parents and school staff.
“The video of the incident involving the injured student that has been widely disseminated is painful to watch,” District Attorney Beth McCann said in a statement. “However, after a very thorough and careful review of all of the evidence gathered in the investigation and the statements of many members of the cheerleading squad, I have concluded that the evidence does not support the filing of criminal charges.”
Continued McCann, “In order to prove a charge of criminal behavior, the case must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. There are differing opinions regarding the use of this technique of cheerleading training. While I believe the technique should not be used, that is not the standard of proof for a criminal case. Most of the cheerleading squad participated in the technique that day, and there are differing accounts of the circumstances.”
The video, reportedly filmed during Denver’s East High School cheer camp in June, showed incoming-freshman, Ally Wakefield, being held down into a splits position by fellow cheerleaders and her recently-hired coach, Williams. Wakefield excruciatingly yelled “please, stop!” multiple times in the video as Williams pushed her down further by her shoulders.
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After the clip went viral in August, Williams was placed on leave alongside six other administrators at the school — East Principal Andy Mendelsberg, East Athletic Director Lisa Porter, East Assistant Cheer Coach Mariah Cladis and DPS Deputy General Counsel Michael Hickman — Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg told PEOPLE in a statement.
Williams was dismissed and Principal Mendelsberg retired as a result of the controversy. The school’s athletic director, Porter, also was removed from her position, CBS News reported in August.
“The individual involved should not be a coach in high school sports and he no longer is,” said McCann in her statement supporting the decision to not pursue charges. “The principal and athletic director of the school have retired and resigned. The message should be clear that this type of technique has no place in high school cheerleading coaching. The bad judgment of the coach, however, does not constitute a prosecutable crime.”