On Sept. 24, Castleton State College’s Eric Cross, Dominic Heller, and Zachary Howe were arrested for their alleged involvement in the string of retail thefts from Dick’s Sporting Goods in Rutland Town, according to a Vermont State Police press release.
Cross, 19, and Heller, 21, defenders on the soccer team, and Howe, 28, a wide receiver on the football team, are three of six Spartan student-athletes facing criminal charges.
According to State Police records, wide receiver, and former basketball player Mark Comstock, 22, All-American receiver, Brandon, Boyle, 21, and quarterback George Busharis, 19, have also received criminal citations.
Records show Cross, Heller, Howe, Comstock, and Busharis as being charged with retail theft. Additionally, Boyle, who was an employee of Dick’s at the time of the incident, is facing embezzlement charges.
Trooper Jason Johnson confirmed these student-athletes had been arrested and are awaiting court appearances.
“A citation is an arrest,” he said.
As of Sept. 10, State Police records estimated the total loss Dick’s had incurred from the incident to exceed $3,000.00.
The college has also undertaken punitive action as the charges play out in the legal system.
“All students involved have been suspended from teams,” said Associate Dean for Athletics and Recreation Deanna Tyson.
Additionally, the college has said that three other unnamed football players have been suspended from the team and are being investigated for their suspected association with the theft.
Although Men’s Soccer Coach John O’Connor declined to comment on the investigations, Head Football Coach Marc Klatt, said he was disappointed by the incident, but recognizes the potential in all of his players to rise up and demonstrate their strength as a team and character as individuals both on and off the field this season.
“Obviously we’re disappointed and we’re saddened as a football family,” he said. “I believe that we’ll move forward and gain strength because of it.”
Known for his close-knit relationships with the students, the college’s President, Dave Wolk, searched for the proper words to express his feelings of grief and disappoint towards the situation.
“I am very surprised and saddened by what transpired,” he said. “These are good kids that made a very bad decision.”
Jeff Weld, director of College Relations and Sports Information, mirrored Wolk’s shock and remorse upon learning of the investigation.
“We stand by these young men. We view them as good people who made mistakes,” he said. “However, the seriousness of their decisions is not taken lightly, and participating in athletics at Castleton is a privilege that they are not afforded at this time.”
According to State Police, the investigation is still ongoing and all parties accused are set to appear before the court. Boyle and Busharis are scheduled to appear Oct. 14 and 28, Cross, Heller, and Howe on Nov. 4, and Comstock on Nov. 19.
Emails to Boyle, Busharis, Comstock, Cross, Heller, and Howe have gone unreturned.
The ongoing investigation has caused a stir on campus and in the aftermath of Boyle’s and Busharis’ arrests, hundreds of copies of the first issue of The Spartan covering the story were stolen from the racks and thrown into garbage cans across campus.
“I’m terribly disappointed in what transpired. I have great respect for The Spartan and all the students who work as volunteers to make it the best college newspaper I know. And every year The Spartan keeps getting better and better. Frankly, the reporting in The Spartan was very balanced and responsible,” Wolk said.
According to Wolk, Public Safety is investigating the newspaper theft and those students involved will be held accountable.
“This is a lesson in freedom of the press. This is a lesson in disagreeing without being disagreeable. This is a lesson in civility and respect,” he said. “Just as the students involved in an off-campus incident unconnected to the college will learn a lesson, so too will the students who thought they were defending them, but who made the situation all that much more challenging, for all of us.”