It’s been 18 months since a Blue Earth Area football player was beaten at a house party held by a teammate in Winnebago.
Four teens were ultimately charged in the assault that occurred in the early morning hours of Oct. 19, 2017, and left a sophomore lineman unconscious.
The victim’s father, Dale Hurley, drove some 370 miles from his home in Nebraska to attend a plea hearing held Wednesday in Fairmont for the last of four defendants to settle their case.
“It’s been a long ordeal for our family and it has truly upended our lives,” says Hurley. “Our faith, friends and support programs have gotten us through this.”
In order to make any statements to the media, Hurley needed to get the OK from Judge Michael Trushenski because a “gag order” he imposed last month has not been lifted.
Although the final defendant pleaded guilty to third-degree assault, Hurley says he was disappointed because it was an Alford plea — which means he still maintains his innocence.
“What a coward. He can’t admit he did it and was wrong,” he says. “At least the other three defendants had enough guts and courage to admit they were wrong.”
Hurley says he doesn’t know how someone can say they’re innocent after giving a 10-page statement to police that they were present when the assault occurred.
During a contested omnibus hearing, two witnesses for the defendant testified he was at his ex-girlfriend mother’s house during the time period of the assault.
One of them ended up being charged with perjury and aiding an offender by obstructing an investigation.
The Hurleys also filed a civil lawsuit last November seeking more than $12,500 in damages associated with lost wages, moving expenses and closing costs on purchasing a house.
Hurley says he expects to increase the amount for financial compensation but hasn’t yet determined by how much.
Any restitution that is awarded will be divided by defendants who are held responsible.
Hurley has at least one more trip back to Minnesota and it will be for a sentencing hearing scheduled June 11 for the last defendant.
“Coming back, it’s been a constant reminder of what happened,” he says. “But, it’s been getting better since we moved away.”
Because one of the defendants charged in the assault was 15 years old at the time of the incident, his case was heard in juvenile court and any details of the outcome are not made public.
The other three of the defendants settled their case without having a jury trial and that saved the county a lot of money.
“All of them got a plea deal. I think they got off pretty easy,” says Hurley.