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Criminal sexual conduct charges filed in Proctor football investigation

Alec John Baney, 17, was charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct against a juvenile victim on Sept. 7, 2021, following a varsity football practice at Proctor High School, St. Louis County Attorney Kim Maki said in a news release.

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DULUTH — The St. Louis County Attorney's Office announced Friday, Jan. 14, that it filed charges against a 17-year-old boy as a result of the investigation into the Proctor High School football team.

Alec John Baney, 17, who is turning 18 on Jan. 19, is charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct against a juvenile victim on Sept. 7, 2021, following a varsity football practice at Proctor High School, St. Louis County Attorney Kim Maki said in a news release. A motion to try Baney as an adult will be filed on or before the first scheduled court hearing, the news release said.

The St. Louis County Attorney’s Office conducted a review of the report provided by the Proctor Police Department on Oct. 27, 2021, and requested additional information from the police department in early November 2021. Additional information was received from law enforcement Jan. 5, a news release said.
According to court documents, Baney allegedly sexually penetrated a 15-year-old teammate with the handle of a toilet plunger while the victim was held down by others.

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Assistant County Attorney Ben Stromberg said the length of time it takes to make a decision on charges can vary from a few hours to several months, depending on the circumstances of the case.

The Proctor Police Department received a report on Sept. 16, 2021, of a sexual assault that had occurred at Proctor High School. Based on a preliminary investigation, it was determined the alleged sexual assault occurred after the end of varsity football practice Sept. 7, 2021, at approximately 5 p.m., court documents said.

Court documents claim during the Labor Day weekend last year, a third party sent a lewd photograph to a group of Proctor football players over Snapchat using the victim’s phone and Snapchat account. This reportedly prompted a response over Snapchat that the victim was going to “get the plunger.”

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After varsity football practice concluded Sept. 7, the victim was in the football locker room located across the street from Proctor High School when he was confronted by Baney holding a toilet plunger and other teammates surrounding the victim’s locker, court documents claim. The victim ran out of the locker room’s northwest exit leading to a grassy area and toward the practice football field with Baney and the other players chasing him.

According to court documents, the victim was eventually taken to the ground by one or more not-identified teammates and rolled over to his stomach. Once on his stomach, Baney allegedly pulled the victim’s pants down and assaulted him.

According to court documents, multiple witnesses said they believed Baney was joking until the moment he pulled down the victim’s pants. After the alleged assault, Baney reportedly returned to the locker room and declared “I did it,” and “I bet you guys didn’t think I was going to do it,” according to court documents.

Proctor police interviews with current Proctor football players revealed that the toilet plunger was used to touch other players with the rubber end, the court documents claim, but none of the prior incidents reported by the players involved acts of sexual assault or penetration.

According to court documents, although the incident occurred in a location that was within view of a security camera, the camera was not functioning leading up to and during the alleged assault. Investigators have not identified any individual who acknowledges seeing a recording of the assault first-hand.

“The investigation in this matter was unnecessarily complicated and delayed by the voluminous amount of social media speculation surrounding this incident as investigators were forced to devote their limited resources to responding to social media rumors,” according to the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office.

No additional charges are being filed at this time. The incident remains an active investigation with the Proctor Police Department.

Anyone with information regarding the events of Sept. 7, 2021, is encouraged to contact Proctor police at 218-624-7788. The case will be handled by Assistant St. Louis County Attorneys Korey Horn and Jon Holets.

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Football activities for Proctor players in grades 9-12 were canceled in September.

The incident was reported to the police department Sept. 16 at 2:05 p.m. In an interview with Fox 21, former head coach Derek Parendo claimed the incident happened while he was watching his daughter play in a soccer game in Cloquet. The Proctor soccer team's only game in Cloquet this season was Sept. 8.

Parendo is on a paid personal leave of absence until the end of the 2021-22 school year, when his resignation will take effect.

Proctor Public Schools Superintendent John Engelking confirmed the investigation in an email to news outlets Sept. 22.

A week after the news emerged that the team was under investigation, the school district announced the rest of the program's 2021 games were canceled. In an email to parents Sept. 29, the district said the “alleged serious misconduct” led to the decision to end the season.

This story was updated at 3:10 p.m. Jan. 14 with additional information from court documents.  It was originally posted 2:50 p.m. Jan. 14.

Adelle Whitefoot covers K-12 education in northeast Minnesota for the Duluth News Tribune. She has been covering education in Minnesota since 2014.
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