Clovis News

Sexual-battery trial for Buchanan wrestler delayed

The sexual-battery trial of a Buchanan High School wrestler has been delayed until Jan. 13, according to one of the attorneys.

Attorney Stephen Quade, who represents Preston Hill, said he could not provide details of a closed-door hearing Thursday because Fresno County Superior Court Judge David Gottlieb imposed a gag order on everyone associated with the case, which has drawn widespread attention.

According to a Clovis police report, Hill, 17, allegedly rammed two fingers into a teammate's anus during wrestling practice at Buchanan in July.

His trial was scheduled to start Thursday, but chief deputy district attorney Rudy Carrillo apparently persuaded Gottlieb to give the prosecution more time to further investigate the case.

Prior to the gag order being imposed, Quade said he would oppose any delay in the trial because his client is innocent and had used a legitimate wrestling move called the "butt drag" on the teammate. But the alleged victim's father has said Preston is a bully who targeted his son, a freshman at Buchanan High School.

In general, the butt drag requires a wrestler to grab a rival's butt cheek to get leverage. Local coaches say anal penetration can occur accidentally, but should never be done on purpose.

Earlier this week, District Attorney Elizabeth Egan wanted the sexual-battery charge dismissed against Preston. Egan apparently changed her mind after deputy district attorney Elana Smith found a witness who can corroborate the victim's account that Preston had threatened him.

During much of the two-hour hearing Thursday, both sides stayed in separate rooms at Juvenile Court, south of Fresno, while lawyers met privately with the judge.

About 10 a.m., it appeared a settlement had been reached when both sides entered the courtroom. But 30 minutes later, they left the courtroom showing no sign of what just happened.

Quade's seven witnesses, including two of Preston's coaches, then entered the courtroom and were ordered to return to court on Jan. 13.

Preston, a senior, remains suspended from Buchanan High pending an expulsion hearing. He started the school year on suspension and is being home-schooled, as well as taking classes at the Center for Advanced Research and Technology in Clovis, his parents have said.

Typically, once a student is suspended, an expulsion hearing is held within 30 days, said Kelly Avants, a spokeswoman for the Clovis Unified School District.

In Preston's case, the expulsion hearing has been delayed for months because Quade wanted to resolve the criminal charge first, said attorney Charles Magill, who will represent Preston at his expulsion hearing.

Magill said Thursday that he plans to proceed with Preston's expulsion hearing on Jan. 17. If a Clovis panel of administrators upholds the suspension, it then goes to the school board, Magill said.

If the school board upholds the expulsion, Magill said, he plans to appeal to the Fresno County Office of Education.