Four of five football players at a Christian college in suburban Chicago pleaded not guilty Monday to felony charges in connection with a hazing scandal.
The group was arraigned in DuPage County after being accused of forcibly taking a freshman teammate from his dorm, tying him up with duct tape, beating him and leaving him half naked in a baseball field.
Noah Spielman, Benjamin Pettway, Kyler Kregel and Samuel TeBos appeared before a judge on charges of aggravated battery, mob action and unlawful restraint. A fifth player, James Cooksey, is expected to be arraigned next month.
Police have alleged the victim was "taken forcefully from his dorm room, restrained against his will" and left in a baseball field with multiple injuries.
An attorney for former NFL star Chris Spielman, who is the father of Noah Spielman, said the family is surprised by the charges and called the allegations against his son "inaccurate and sensationalized."
"Chris and his family were shocked to hear of these charges after an investigation by Wheaton College exonerated these gentlemen over one year ago," the statement read. "The initial print reporting has been inaccurate and sensationalized as Noah has, and will, cooperate with authorities moving forward in the legal process."
Attorney information for the other students was not immediately available.
The victim's attorney has claimed the students went well beyond hazing and into criminal territory when they allegedly duct-taped, beat and threatened to sodomize the teen freshman last year.
Attorney Terry Ekl alleged the five football players duct taped the victim's arms and legs and placed a pillow case over his head before they put him in a car while playing what the teen described as "Muslim music."
The group then allegedly dropped the teen off in a field where they threatened to sodomize him with a metal pipe, Ekl claimed, noting that the players denied any threats of sexual violence.
The freshman ultimately took himself to a hospital with labral tears in both shoulders, Ekl said. He has since undergone three surgeries, he added.
Police noted the freshman's injuries were "confirmed by medical experts."
“That’s not hazing," Ekl said. "That’s just criminal in nature and that’s essentially what happened here.”
A judge issued arrest warrants last month for each of the Wheaton College students in the case.
The college said in a statement that it had conducted its own investigation into the hazing claims, which "resulted in a range of corrective actions," though it could not specify what those actions were.
"The conduct we discovered as a result of our investigation into this incident was entirely unacceptable and inconsistent with the values we share as human beings and as members of an academic community that espouses to live according to our Community Covenant," the statement read. "We are profoundly saddened that any member of our community could be mistreated in any way."
Wheaton College has one of the top-ranked Division 3 football programs in the nation.
Police said it is the first serious hazing incident that has been reported from the school.
"They're very serious charges," said Chief Jim Volpe. "They'll be answering to felony charges."
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story reported the players pleaded guilty. That has been corrected to read "not guilty."