Browerville sex hazing scandal: Two 18-year-olds charged with felonies for assaulting teammates

Kellen (left) and Burns allegedly sexually assaulted at least seven teammates.
Kellen (left) and Burns allegedly sexually assaulted at least seven teammates.

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Todd County prosecutor Clark Rasmussen calls it felony sexual assault. A defendant's lawyer calls it hazing and says the stiff charges are "ridiculous."

Seth Kellen and Connor Burns are both 18. They're both recent grads of Browerville High School, where they played football and basketball. And both are now facing prison time after seven boys came forward and accused the two of inappropriate and illegal touching, penetration, and exposure. Similar charges have been filed against a third high schooler, but because he remains a minor, Rasmussen isn't identifying him.

The timeline outlined by authorities is strange: Police say they were first made aware of sex assault allegations last August, when a mother called them to report that her son had been held underwater and sexually assaulted by some team members during a swim outing following a football practice.

Then, in March, Kellen and Burns allegedly went hog-wild during the basketball team's outing to the state tournament in Minneapolis.

From the Star Tribune:

A 17-year-old player alleged that in March at the state tournament, Burns held him down in their downtown Marriott Hotel room while another teammate digitally penetrated him through his athletic shorts.

The next night, the 17-year-old endured the same, this time with one teammate holding him down while Burns and Kellen carried out the assault, the charges said.

Kellen also is accused of pulling down his own pants while in a Minneapolis parking ramp elevator with his teammates and two student managers, ages 11 and 12. Kellen then jumped on teammates' backs and hit them with his penis, according to the charges.

Other assaults took place at Browerville High, investigators say: in the locker room, locker room showers, and even in a shop class, where Kellen allegedly dropped his pants, ran up to a fellow student, and put his balls on his lower back.

In April, authorities held a press conference where they announced that an illegal hazing investigation was underway. Charges were filed this week.

Kellen is charged with 20 separate counts, including multiple felonies; Burns faces six counts himself, including four felonies. Some of their alleged victims were as young as 13. Both remain free at least until their next court appearance, scheduled for August 20.

Kellen's attorney, Chris Karpan, told Fox 9 he thinks boys were just being boys:

Is any hazing acceptable? If so, where should the line be drawn?
Is any hazing acceptable? If so, where should the line be drawn?
[Chris is] a good kid. I understand the charges, and I understand the law -- but to brand this kid as a sex offender is ridiculous. He's an 18-year-old kid that just graduated high school -- was working hard at a summer job and was looking forward to going to college.

Now, here we are. The behavior is not new. There is nothing in these complaints that has not been seen before in that school in years gone by.

Karpan, in an interview with the Strib, characterized Kellen's actions as "inappropriate hazing activities."

Karpan said Kellen was subjected to similar hazing when he was a freshman, so there must be many other Browerville alums who are "awfully worried that the world is about to come to a screeching halt, too."

But Rasmussen argues that what Kellen and Burns were up to was much more serious than run-of-the-mill hazing.

"The victims included seniors, and there's no reason for hazing seniors," Rasmussen told the Strib. "Also, the victims said it didn't feel like a hazing situation."

"This isn't hazing. This isn't bullying," Rasmussen added, speaking to Fox 9. "This is [criminal] sexual conduct."

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