Norman North HS Wrestlers Make First Court Appearance

Tuesday, February 2nd 2016, 5:48 pm
By: Grant Hermes

Somber and unshackled, the four Norman North High School wrestlers accused of a disturbing double rape left the courtroom to have their mug shots taken.

They left without saying a word about the serious charges against them Tuesday at the Garvin County courthouse on.

Chase Smith, 16, Sage Gandenberger, 17, and Tanner Shipman, 18, are all facing the three counts of rape by instrumentation.

The fourth wrestler, Hunter Matthews, 17, is only facing one count.

2/1/2016 Related Story: Court Documents Detail Assault Involving Norman North HS Wrestlers

According to court documents, Matthews helped plan one of the assaults but was present for the others.

Both Gandenberger and Matthews have asked to be tried as juveniles, according to a source from the district attorney’s office.

All four were dressed in casual clothes. Gandenberger and Shipman wore jeans and fleece sweaters. Shipman was in a black long sleeved t-shirt and Matthews dressed in a blue plaid shirt and jeans.

The four were joined by their parents and separate attorneys during the arraignment, which was held exclusively at the judge’s bench instead of outright in court.

Before the proceeding, Shipman and Smith were seen smiling and talking, but were solemn before the judge.

Matthews was visibly shaken and just before the judge entered and his mother broke down in the back of the courtroom.

They're accused of using their fingers to rape a 16-year-old teammate and another 12-year-old wrestler while riding home from a tournament in Pauls Valley.

When they got back to the high school, the 12-year-old was assaulted again in a secluded corner of the building until his parents arrived, according to documents.

None of the wrestlers, their parents or their attorneys talked about the case directly after the hearing.

Elton Jenkins, who is representing Gandenberger, said he would not have a comment until he saw the full police report.

Norman Public Schools superintendent Joseph Siano said in a statement on Tuesday:

"We will not tolerate individuals who victimize our students. Upon notification of the incident we immediately began an investigation and within hours suspended students involved, dismissed one coach and suspended a second coach pending an investigation. The second coach’s employment with the district has since been terminated and suspended students are being disciplined by the school to the fullest extent of the law. We have also strengthened our student activity travel procedures and now require increased supervision on all student trips, supervisors to be seated in areas where they can see students at all times, procedures to be reinforced with expanded training sessions and increased video surveillance equipment on district buses. In addition, we continue to implement sexual assault prevention education programs in our schools and previously implemented procedures have prepared us to take swift action in these cases. Our hearts break for these victims and our student advocacy coordinators are working closely with them through this traumatic time.” 

All four were released on $5,000 bond and were ordered to have no contact with the victims. They are expected to be back in a Garvin County courtroom Apr. 14.