Education

Settlement reached in sex assault suit against former Buchanan High baseball players

Buchanan High School in the Clovis Unified School District.
Buchanan High School in the Clovis Unified School District.

A settlement has been reached in a Fresno County Superior Court civil lawsuit that accused two players on Buchanan High School’s 2016 national championship team of sexually assaulting an intoxicated 16-year-old girl in July 2015, the victim’s lawyer said.

San Diego attorney Stephen J. Estey, who represents the teen, said Wednesday the confidential financial settlement will lead to the dismissal of the lawsuit against former Buchanan High baseball players Hunter Reinke and Blake Wells and their parents, and will vacate the Sept. 24 trial date.

Court records show Estey filed a request to dismiss the case April 4 on behalf of the girl, who is identified in court papers only as Jenny Doe. The document doesn’t say why it was settled or for how much. But court documents say Wells’ family has a homeowner’s insurance policy with a liability limit of $500,000.

“Jenny is happy she stood up for herself and held the defendants responsible for their actions,” Estey said. “She hopes that other victims in similar situations will do the same, and if they do, maybe we can put a stop to this type of incident from happening in the future.”

The lawsuit accuses Wells and Reinke of sexually assaulting the girl inside Wells’ home in late July 2015.

Wells, then 16, and Reinke, then 17, were later dealt with in Fresno County Juvenile Court, but what happened to them is confidential because they were minors at the time.

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 team that finished as the nation’s consensus No. 1 following a 30-1 season in 2016.

The Bee rarely identifies minors in juvenile criminal cases. But The Bee decided to identify Wells and Reinke because they are now adults involved in a civil case that was being contested in open court.

Documents filed by Estey say the sexual assault happened July 31, 2015 inside Wells’ home when school was not in session and his parents were on vacation.

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

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 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.” Estey, however, said in court papers that Jenny Doe suffered “great mental, physical and nervous pain” that required hospitalization.

Clovis Unified 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.

Because of laws that protect students, district officials have said they could not say whether Wells or Reinke were disciplined.

Reinke returned to the baseball team for his senior year in 2017; Wells wasn’t on the 2017 baseball roster but played wide receiver for the Buchanan football team in the 2015 and 2016 seasons.

Wells and Reinke finished their prep careers in 2017. Wells, now 19, recently finished his first season of football at College of the Sequoias in Visalia. Reinke, also 19, had planned to play baseball at University of Oregon, but a university official said Reinke never signed a letter of intent or enrolled.

Because Blake’s father, Ronald Wells, is a senior deputy in the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office, the state Attorney General’s Office handled the prosecution of his son and Reinke.

Pablo Lopez: 559-441-6434, @BeeCourts

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