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Judge's ruling in deer decoy crash divides 'big football town'

Sunday, August 20, 2006

KENTON, Ohio -- It was intended to be a prank: steal a decoy deer, place it on a country road and watch as motorists swerved to avoid it.

It ended with two teenagers suffering serious injuries when their car hit the decoy and rolled into a ditch.

When a judge ruled this week that two boys -- both high school football players -- can complete the football season before they serve 60-day sentences at a juvenile detention center, it caused a division in this northwest Ohio city.

On one side are those who say allowing Dailyn Campbell, a 16-year-old quarterback, and 17-year-old teammate Jesse Howard to play shows that football players get preferential treatment.

On the other are those who say either the boys deserve another chance or that they will stay out of trouble if they're part of the team.

"I've never seen anything that has been so much an issue in the community," said Arch Rodgers, principal of 670-student Kenton High School. "The worst part is this has drug out so long and the longer it drug out, the more it created friction in the community."

Robert Roby Jr., one of the injured teens, said he believes Campbell and Howard received special treatment because they're football players.

"They could have killed me and my friend so easily over a stupid prank. For me it feels like they got a little slap on the wrist," said Roby, 19, who graduated from Kenton High in 2005 and played baseball and golf.

"Kenton is a big football town and a lot of people don't look past that to see what really happened," he said.

The Wildcats, which won state championships in their division in 2001 and 2002, draw about 4,000 fans for games in this city of about 8,000.

Howard and Campbell are to remain on house arrest once released, pay fines, perform community service and each write an essay titled "Why I Should Think Before I Act." Trials are pending for three other defendants.

Howard's mother, Valerie Berry of Ashland, Ky., said her son has a strong support system and will be able to move on.

"With this stunt he was a child," she said. "He's an adult now."


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