Crime

Lawsuit accuses two baseball players on Buchanan High ’16 national title team of sexual assault

Buchanan High School, in Clovis Unified School District. A civil lawsuit accuses two students of sexually assaulting a teenage girl. The two students played on Buchanan’s 2016 national championship baseball team.
Buchanan High School, in Clovis Unified School District. A civil lawsuit accuses two students of sexually assaulting a teenage girl. The two students played on Buchanan’s 2016 national championship baseball team. Fresno Bee file photo

Two years ago, a civil lawsuit accused two players on Buchanan High School’s 2016 national championship team of sexually assaulting an intoxicated 16-year-old girl.

The girl reported the alleged sexual assault to the Clovis Police Department in the summer 2015, and Blake Wells, then 16, and Hunter Reinke, then 17, were later dealt with in Fresno County Juvenile Court, court documents show.

At the time, the two teens’ identities and specific misdeeds were confidential because of laws that protect minors.

But since February 2016, when the lawsuit was filed in Superior Court, an amended complaint and other court documents filed in recent months in connection with the upcoming civil trial not only identify Wells and Reinke as defendants but provide some details about the incident.

What isn’t known, because of confidentiality laws, is whether Wells and Reinke were punished by the juvenile justice system or, if the allegations were substantiated, why Buchanan High School officials apparently didn’t apply Clovis Unified School District’s code of conduct and instead let them play on the championship baseball team.

Every Clovis Unified student who plays sports must sign a Code of Conduct that says the student could be disciplined or kicked off a team if he or she violates any provision of the code. The provisions prohibit sexual harassment and drinking alcohol or attending parties where alcohol is illegally used.

District told

The school district learned of the allegations against Wells and Reinke in February 2016 when local news media informed district officials about the civil lawsuit that identifies the two boys and mentions the accusation of sexual assault.

 

Clovis Unified spokeswoman Kelly Avants said last week that the school district did its due diligence and investigated the civil complaint. Because of laws that protect children, Avants said, she could not say whether Wells or Reinke were disciplined.

But Reinke, a star pitcher, and Wells, an outfielder, continued to play on the Buchanan team after the incident was reported to the district. Both were members of the Buchanan baseball team that finished as the nation’s consensus No. 1 following a 30-1 season in 2016. Reinke returned for his senior year in 2017; Wells wasn’t on the 2017 baseball roster but played wide receiver for the Buchanan football team in both the 2015 and 2016 seasons.

Wells and Reinke finished their prep careers in 2017. Wells recently finished his first season of football at College of the Sequoias in Visalia. Reinke had planned to play baseball at University of Oregon, but a university official said last week that Reinke never signed a letter of intent or enrolled.

July party

Documents filed by the girl’s attorneys say the sexual assault happened July 31, 2015 inside Wells’ home when school was not in session and his parents were on vacation. The amended complaint says Wells and a group of underage friends went to his Clovis home to drink beer and Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey.

Due to her youth and inexperience with alcohol, court documents say, the 16-year-old girl passed out in a hallway.

The complaint accuses Wells and Reinke of carrying the intoxicated girl into a bedroom, closing the door and sexually assaulting her.

In court papers, lawyers for Wells and Reinke contend the sex was consensual and that the girl’s carelessness and negligence “contributed to some degree to the alleged incident.”

 
 

The girl, identified in court papers as Jenny Doe, is represented by San Diego attorneys Stephen J. Estey and R. Michael Bomberger. She is seeking unspecified damages from Wells and his parents, Ronald and Cheryl Wells, as well as from Reinke and his parents, Brian and Cindy Reinke, for battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Wells, now 18, and Reinke, now 19, also are accused of negligence; their parents are accused of negligent supervision of their sons.

Ronald Wells, a senior deputy district attorney in the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office, declined to comment. A telephone call to Brian Reinke, who is president of Tamarack Pest Control in Clovis, was not returned. Lawyers for the Wells and Reinke families, as well as the lawyers for Jenny Doe, declined to comment for this story.

Because Wells works for the District Attorney’s Office, the state attorney general’s office handled the prosecution of the two boys.

Television reporters first covered the lawsuit when it was filed two years ago. However, they didn’t identify the defendants or their ties to the Buchanan baseball team or the community. The Bee chose to wait until more information became available.

The Bee rarely identifies minors in juvenile cases. But Wells and Reinke are now adults involved in a civil case that is being contested in open court.

Revealing civil case

The first inkling that the lawsuit was of public interest came in June 2016 when Estey and Bomberger filed a case management report that said: “Defendants sexually assaulted plaintiff and have been criminally charged for same. Plaintiff has suffered physical and emotional damages.”

Over the months, court records show, the defendants have fought to keep the criminal records of Blake Wells and Hunter Reinke confidential, but Estey and Bomberger argued successfully to obtain them, prompting Judge Mark Snauffer to sign a protective order that prohibits lawyers from revealing the confidential information. Details could come out during a trial.

Court documents identify the people who attended the party at the Wells home. Jenny Doe did not attend Buchanan High nor did she know Wells or Reinke; she met them for the first time when her friend invited her to Wells’ party.

In court documents, Wells recalls drinking two Coors Light beers and five to 10 shots of Fireball whiskey. He “admits that he engaged in underage drinking and that his behavior, (as well as) those in attendance on the night of the alleged incident, was inappropriate,” the documents say. How much Reinke drank is not outlined in court documents.

Documents say Wells admitted to having “engaged in sexual activity with the plaintiff.”

In court papers, Estey says Jenny Doe suffered “great mental, physical and nervous pain” that required hospitalization.

The civil trial was supposed to start this month, but lawyers for the Reinkes asked Snauffer last year to relieve them from the case. In October, Fresno attorney Steven Stoker took over as the lead attorney for the Reinkes, and both sides agreed on a September trial date to give Stoker more time to become familiar with the case. Fresno attorney Theodore Hoppe represents the Wells family.

To avoid a trial, lawyers typically hire a retired judge to mediate the case. Court records show both sides hired retired Superior Court Judge Robert Oliver in an attempt to resolve the dispute. But in November, Estey filed a document that says both sides are at a standstill: “Tough case to resolve.”

Pablo Lopez: 559-441-6434, @beecourts

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