Image Credit: Screenshot/Facebook
Note: This article contains graphic content.
Being drafted by a professional team is what many student athletes dream about. And for Luke Heimlich, an Oregon State baseball player, his dreams were just starting to take shape.
According to The Oregonian, Heimlich has “arguably pitched the greatest season of any player” in the school’s history. He’s at the forefront of bringing Oregon State back to the College World Series, and had one his best games just last weekend.
This year in 118 1/3 innings, he’s had 128 strikeouts and only 22 walks — he has a .76 earned run average.
Suffice it to say, the big leagues are watching.
Hard to believe it was a month ago that Luke Heimlich absolutely dealt against UCLA.#GoBeavs
But, because of Heimlich’s talent, so is everyone else.
As the star player of the team, the local paper, The Oregonian, was set to run a flattering feature on Heimlich and his promising career.
However, during a routine background check, the paper discovered something no one expected.
Heimlich is a registered sex offender.
According to The Oregonian, Heimlich pleaded guilty to one count of molesting a 6-year-old relative when he was 15 years old in his Washington home.
Although the now 21-year-old registered as an out-of-state sex offender when he moved to Oregon for school, he failed to update his registration within 10 days of his most recent birthday, according to reports.
He was tracked down by a Benton County sheriff’s sergeant and was handed a criminal citation for not updating his information — a misdemeanor which was later dismissed by the Benton County District Attorney’s Office.
Amie Matusko, a senior deputy district attorney, wrote:
“Follow-up investigation reveals insufficient evidence of Defendant’s knowledge of Oregon reporting requirements.”
However, that citation led The Oregonian to file a public information act request for Heimlich’s sexual molestation case, which occurred in 2012.
According to court documents, Heimlich sexually abused the girl after he took her to his bedroom and pulled down her underwear.
She told investigators he “touched her on both the inside and outside of the spot she uses to go to the bathroom.”
The documents also reportedly state that “she said that she told him to stop, but he wouldn’t.”
In the state of Washington, child molestation is a Class A felony. Although he was initially charged with two counts because the girl told investigators he had molested her once before, the second charge was dropped in a plea bargain.
Heimlich ended up entering a plea of guilty to one count of child molestation. He wrote:
“I admit that I had sexual contact with the girl.”
Luke Heimlich pitched 5.2 scoreless innings against Indiana, striking out a career-high 11 in a 1-0 victory over the Hoosiers. Jake Thompson retired the one batter he faced for the win.
According to The Oregonian, he was given two years of probation, and attended sex offender treatment for two years. He was also sentenced to 40 weeks at Washington’s Juvenile Rehabilitation authority, however that order was dismissed after he finished probation.
In a follow-up to its Heimlich sex-offender story, The Oregonian wrote:
Most juvenile cases are kept sealed. But Washington considers the type of crime Heimlich committed to be so serious that the records are not confidential for juvenile offenders.
Now that his status as a sex offender is public knowledge, the question is if he should be able to play.
According to The Oregonian, the NCAA does not prohibit convicted felons from playing, rather it leaves the decision up to the school. And since Oregon State frequently receives an updated list of registered sex offenders from state police, according to Oregon State Spokesman Steve Clark, the school should have known about Heimlich’s status.
However, it’s unclear if Heimlich’s name — if placed on those lists — was ever noticed.
Clark also said:
“We’re not able to discuss the specifics of this case, when we knew, what we knew or any other student information specific to this student or other students. It’s a federal law.
What I would offer to you is we’re very aware of this matter now and we take this very seriously.”
That's Luke Heimlich's fifth quality start of the season.Still tied at 1 in the seventh inning at Goss Stadium.Go Beavs!
The Oregonian got in touch with the victim’s mother, who will remain anonymous. She told the publication she’s “appalled that the college he’s going to would even have him on their team.”
But Oregon State University President Ed Ray said on Thursday:
“OSU follows U.S. Department of Education recommendations that universities not allow a person’s criminal history to affect disproportionately a student’s access to higher education and opportunity for a better life.”
However, he stated he that he finds the account “disturbing” and in no way “condones the conduct as reported,” adding:
“But we also understand that this case involves a criminal matter that was previously addressed by the judicial system in the state of Washington.”
Although Oregon State officials have addressed its students’ safety, saying no registered sex offender is permitted to live in residence halls or work with minors, The Oregonian cited research showing that most juvenile sex offenders are not repeat offenders.
Psychologist Michael Caldwell, who lectures at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told the publication that three years after the initial offense, the chance of reoffending is “very small.”
In fact, after five years, the likelihood drops down to just 2.75%.
Pitchers: Found this pic today of Luke Heimlich, Oregon St., who was just named Pac 12 player of the week. Take a look…
So while, statistically, Heimlich doesn’t necessarily pose a threat on campus, his eligibility to not only play sports for the school, but also excel into stardom poses a threat to some people’s moral compass — including the journalist who discovered all of this in the first place, Danny Moran.
In the same follow-up piece to the bombshell story, The Oregonian wrote it was that moral compass that led them to publish its findings:
“Our decision to publish was not made lightly and was the subject of intense discussion in our newsroom.
Some of our readers may say that Heimlich paid for his crime and completed his sentence. Others may argue that mistakes made by a minor should be forgiven … Some will contend that we are undermining both Heimlich and his team.
Our society decided long ago that sex offenders should carry the burden of their conviction well after their sentences end — and that juvenile sex crimes should follow offenders into adulthood.
This is a tragic story on so many levels. But we believed the crime against a young, innocent and defenseless child had to be disclosed and that we had an obligation as journalists to disclose it.”
It’s still unclear whether Oregon State knew of Heimlich’s conviction and gave him the chance to play anyway, or if the school’s method of tracking registered sex offenders simply failed.
Heimlich has yet to comment on the matter, and his future in the MLB is as uncertain as ever.
Update [6/10/17, 1:31 p.m. ET]: According to ESPN, Heimlich released a statement Friday asking to be benched in the meantime:
“I understand that many people now see me differently, but I hope that I can eventually be judged for the person I am today,” Heimlich said in his statement. “I’m so proud of our team’s accomplishment and don’t want to be a distraction. Therefore, I’ve respectfully requested to be excused from playing at this time.”
ESPN added that though Heimlich didn’t play in his team’s most recent game, “[he] was in uniform and was cheered by fans when he was introduced along with the rest of Oregon State’s players before the game.”