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Teen accused in Walker Middle rape case withdraws from Jesuit High School

TAMPA — A teen accused in the Walker Middle School rape case won't be attending Jesuit High School as his family first planned.

The Rev. Richard Hermes, president of the prestigious Catholic school for boys, said Lee Myers' family notified the school Thursday morning that they'd reconsidered their decision to enroll the 14-year-old boy at the 650-student campus.

"The Myers family voluntarily withdrew Lee from the school," Hermes wrote in a letter he sent to the school's parents Thursday. "It was completely their decision, made for personal reasons, and knowing full well that we stood by our decision to admit Lee into Jesuit."

TBO.com reported on its Web site Thursday the news that Myers had been accepted by the school.

Readers unleashed a string of anonymous comments on the story, some from people who wrote they were outraged parents or donors who would be withdrawing their support from the school.

Hermes said Myers' parents told him they decided attending Jesuit wasn't in their son's best interest.

"I wasn't expecting it," Hermes said, "but given the situation, anything is possible."

Myers was admitted to Jesuit in February, three months before allegations arose implicating Myers and three other teens in sexual attacks on a fellow Walker student.

Myers' father and brother are alumni of Jesuit. The family has actively supported the school and donated "modestly" over the years, Hermes said.

Now, Myers is one of four teens charged as adults with four counts of sexual battery.

In records released last week, Myers told authorities that he and Raymond Price-Murray, 14, held the arms of a flag football teammate during a 15- to 20-second incident in the school's locker room. Afterward, Myers said, he told the victim they were just playing around.

The administration wrestled with its decision to admit Myers after the criminal charges were filed, Hermes said.

"After much prayer, deliberation and consultation with our administration, I made the decision to let our offer of admission stand," Hermes wrote in his letter.

Hermes said that throughout the process he wanted to ensure that the administration's decision was "consistent with Catholic and Jesuit principles," adding that the school's mission requires it to "promote and defend the rights of others, even when that defense is difficult in the face of contrary opinions."

While it is true that Myers has been accused of a very serious crime, the accusation is just that, a charge, not a conviction, he said.

"Like anybody else," Hermes wrote, Myers "is entitled to due process and the presumption of innocence."

Myers has no prior criminal or disciplinary history; he passed a polygraph; and he admits to only one instance of horseplay, denying the serious allegations against him, Hermes said.

In an interview with the Times, Hermes said he was not aware of where Myers would be going to school.

Hillsborough County public schools spokesman Stephen Hegarty said he couldn't comment on where any of the involved students transferred after the May allegations.

Though Myers' decision to withdraw from school changes things, Hermes told parents it was always the school's intention to "monitor the case closely and respond appropriately."

Contacted by telephone Thursday, Myers' attorney, Tim Taylor, declined to comment.

Patrice Eveld, parent of two Jesuit students, said that whatever happened — whether Myers was admitted or not — she trusted the school's judgment on the matter.

"They fine-tooth-comb people," she said. "I just hate to judge."

Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at rcatalanello@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3383.

To read Father Richard Hermes' letter in its entirety to parents, go to links.tampabay.com.

Teen accused in Walker Middle rape case withdraws from Jesuit High School 08/06/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 6, 2009 11:36pm]
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