No criminal charges will be filed against a Spokane high school football coach accused of placing his penis inside a hot dog bun in front of players at a leadership camp last summer.
The Shoshone County Prosecutor’s Office declined to file charges on June 21. At least three football players claimed that while former Ferris High School football coach Jim Sharkey was grilling hot dogs and hamburgers at the camp along the Coeur d’Alene River near Cataldo, Idaho, he turned toward them with his exposed penis inside a hot dog bun.
Sharkey’s coaching contract was not renewed by Spokane Public Schools in late March. He had coached the Ferris Saxons since 2006 and won a state championship in 2010. In 2016, the team went 5-5.
Sharkey has denied the allegations.
Additionally, no criminal charges will be filed regarding allegations that Ferris High School football players regularly dog piled and sexually assaulted each other on their birthdays.
“If the kids had said anything that led us to believe there was a criminal act we would have taken the next step,” said Mark Sterk, SPS director of safety, risk management and transportation and former Spokane County sheriff.
While no criminal charges will be brought, the school district’s human resources investigation is ongoing. Sharkey remains on paid administrative leave, district spokesman Kevin Morrison said.
Morrison declined to comment further, although he said in a text message, “We are working hard to resolve the issue in as timely manner as feasible.”
Sharkey declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation. However, he said he hopes to return to the classroom. Sharkey teaches fitness and leadership. In 2016-17, Sharkey made $96,754 between his teaching contract and other district pay, such as bonuses and stipends. His coaching contract was worth $7,085.
“Absolutely, I want to go back to teaching,” he said Tuesday.
Interviews with players did not indicate there were grounds for a criminal case, Sterk said.
Numerous Ferris High School football players exhibited some knowledge of what some said was a team tradition known as “juicing” in which players were dog piled and other players pressed a finger against the anus of the dog-piled student, according to notes taken during the inquiry and obtained by The Spokesman-Review. Student names were redacted in accordance with state disclosure laws.
“There is certainly some lack of discretion here and some concern about are we supervising as best as we could,” Sterk said.
Some players said the practice is a long-standing tradition. Twenty-five players were interviewed by district administrators in late February and early March, weeks prior to media coverage of the allegations.
However, it was unclear if players observed the behavior firsthand, according to the notes. Those who did see someone being tackled didn’t see or didn’t know if there was anal penetration. Two players interviewed said they were “juiced” but neither said they were sexually assaulted. Both declined to press charges, according to the notes.
Sterk said two of his officers, one a former detective, sat in on the interviews. Based on what they heard they didn’t believe there was a criminal case. To be sure, Sterk said the interview notes were forwarded to the Spokane Police Department. SPD also didn’t find grounds for a criminal case, Sterk said.
“The good thing, I think is that there wasn’t any penetration,” Sterk said. “It was done through clothing.”
Several players characterized the encounters as friendly and harmless. One said it was done “out of fun.”
“I’ve been tackled but no fingers in my buttocks,” one student told district investigators.
The student continued, “(I’m) not upset. Just a fun thing. It sounds weird, but I didn’t feel violated.”
Another student told investigators, “It’s not a big deal. It sounds weirder than it was.”
Investigators also asked if coaches knew about juicing. Several players said they did. However, others said coaches were not aware of it.
In addition to the juicing allegations, several players said Sharkey was abusive. One player said, “(The) coaches yell and turn(ed) us against each other.”
The same player’s mother, who sat in on the interview, said the coaches would scream at players and drove some students away from football because it was “not fun anymore.”
Another student said parents and players wouldn’t complain about Sharkey because they were “afraid to be benched.”
“(He) called me stupid multiple times,” the player said.