One of the defendants in a case of bullying at Spokane High School struck a plea agreement with prosecutors and will serve jail time.
Tanner J. Brown, 19, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of disturbing the peace and receiving stolen property. On June 13, Brown had three felony charges initially filed against him dismissed.
A grand jury initially indicted Brown on felony charges of first degree sodomy or attempted sodomy and assault while on school property, plus misdemeanor charges of third degree kidnapping, second degree harassment and fourth degree assault.
In a separate case in Stone County, Brown was charged with second degree burglary and felony stealing.
The sodomy and assault while on school property charges were dismissed and replaced with the peace disturbance charge. Brown will serve a 180-day suspended execution of sentence, which places him two years of probation. He also agreed to serve two days in the Christian County Jail at the end of June.
Christian County Circuit Judge Jennifer Growcock asked the prosecution about the “substantial changes” to Brown’s original charges.
“Do you want to give me a brief explanation of why?” Growcock asked.
Taney County Prosecuting Attorney William Duston served as the special prosecutor in Brown’s cases.
“I think the state would have a hard time making that argument, if I had to go with what was on file,” Duston said of the original sodomy charge.
Duston, who was not the original prosecutor on the case, pointed out to the court that he did not originally indict Brown.
“In my personal opinion, the first incident was an assault case, maybe rather than a sodomy case,” Duston said.
According to the indictment, the incident resulting in charges of sodomy and assault while on school property allegedly occurred Feb. 20, 2016, when Tanner Brown and another Spokane High School student, Chandler Brown, “knowingly caused physical injury,” to a victim identified in court documents as “John Doe No. 1,” physically held down the victim and shoved a dirty condom into his mouth. The indictment says this happened at the Spokane High School baseball field.
The incidents of kidnapping, harassment and assault, the grand jury indictment says, happened about a year later and involved a different victim.
The indictment states Chandler Brown and Tanner Brown “knowingly restrained John Doe No. 2 unlawfully and without consent so as to interfere substantially with his or her liberty by forcibly carrying him behind the stage at Spokane High School and holding him down,” the indictment says for the kidnapping charge, which occurred Feb. 16, 2017.
On Feb. 27, 2017, court documents allege – under the harassment charge – that Tanner Brown and Chandler Brown “held John Doe No. 2 on the ground, pulled his pants and underwear down and threatened to commit sexual acts upon him and did so with the purpose to cause emotional distress to John Doe No. 2.”
On the conviction of receiving stolen property, Tanner Brown agreed to serve a one-year suspended jail sentence. He will spend two years on unsupervised probation and serve two days in jail concurrent with his other sentence for disturbing the peace.
Defense attorney Branden Twibell represented Tanner Brown in the two criminal cases.
Former Spokane Superintendent Daryl Bernskoetter, former Spokane High School Principal Christopher Kohl and former students Tanner Brown and Chandler Brown, 19, were all indicted after an incident that occurred in Feb. 20, 2016. Chandler Brown and Tanner Brown were accused of taking another boy to the ground, holding him down and shoving a dirty condom into his mouth.
Charges against Bernskoetter have since been dropped. He remains one of the defendants in a civil lawsuit filed against the Spokane R-VII School District and other parties in relation to the incident.
Kohl faces a pair of misdemeanor charges of failure of a mandated reporter to report child abuse or neglect. The two school officials were first indicted in August 2017. Kohl is scheduled to stand trial Aug. 19.
Bernskoetter retired in 2017, about three months before charges were filed against him, to conclude a 33-year career in education. He spent 12 years in Spokane, first as a principal, then as superintendent.
Kohl remained principal at Spokane High School until the start of the 2018-2019 school year, when he was replaced with Kent Doyle.
Chandler Brown and Tanner Brown are being tried separately from the former school administrator, and from each other.
Chandler Brown also faces felony charges of first degree sodomy or attempted sodomy and assault while on school property and misdemeanor charges of third degree kidnapping, second degree harassment and fourth degree assault.
Chandler Brown is scheduled to stand trial Sept. 30.