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Ex-cadet enters plea over battery at Kansas school

Published on -6/25/2013, 7:19 AM

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SALINA, Kan. (AP) -- A former cadet leader accused of assaulting a younger student at a Kansas military school has struck a deal with prosecutors for a 45-day jail sentence.

David J. Burke, 18, of McLean, Va., entered an Alford plea Monday to a reduced charge of aggravated battery. Such a plea means he does not admit the act, but acknowledges prosecutors could likely prove it.

The Salina Journal (http://bit.ly/11Zvx3J ) reported that the judge revoked his bond so that Burke could begin serving the proposed jail time, although his sentencing won't take place until Aug. 5.

Burke's lawyer, Richard Blackwell, said the agreement avoided trial on more serious charges of sexual battery.

"There was a chance he could have been convicted, and we didn't want to take that chance," Blackwell said.

Prosecutor Christina Trocheck said the younger student and his mother agreed to the plea deal, which allows Burke to attend college in the fall.

Burke was a student at St. John's Military School in Salina at the time of the alleged incidents in late October and early November 2012.

He had initially been charged with seven counts of aggravated sexual battery and one count of attempted aggravated criminal sodomy. But after a preliminary hearing, the judge found there was only enough evidence to proceed with three of the aggravated sexual battery counts.

A 17-year-old cadet described during the preliminary hearing several instances when Burke pantomimed sexual acts toward him in his room at the school. The teenager said the older cadet's behavior had made him feel "discouraged and fearful."

The allegations against the former cadet leader at St. John's Military School come as the Salina school fights a federal lawsuit filed by 11 former cadets and their families against the boarding school. The students contend the school's quasi-military cadet program, which gives higher-ranking cadets the power to discipline students, encourages physical and mental abuse. St. John's has denied a culture of abuse exists at the school.

The allegations against Burke are not part of that ongoing civil lawsuit.

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