UPDATE: High school football player enters pre-trial diversion p - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: High school football player enters pre-trial diversion program

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UPDATE: Two high school students, Mason Shepard, 18, and a 17-year old, will soon resolve their pending criminal cases involving felony cruelty to animal charges according to a press release. 

The two students have entered the District Attorney's pre-trial diversion and intervention program. A 16-year old's charges are pending in Juvenile Court. 

Shepard and the 17- year old were not directly involved in the killing of chickens, but both were present and recorded video of the incident on their cell phones and posted the videos online. 

Neither of the two admitted any criminal wrongdoing, both mentioned they showed poor judgment and understood the videos were offensive.

They both mentioned the situation should have been handled differently. 

The press release says both students will be required to pay an administrative fee, perform 40 hours of community service work, half of those hours must be performed at an approved animal shelter or county animal control office. 

They must also remain in school and obtain their high school diplomas. 

Upon signing the pre-trial diversion contract, the outstanding felony warrants will be formally dismissed Tuesday for Shepard and Wednesday for the 17-year old. 

PREVIOUS STORY: A North Georgia high school football player has been benched after being charged with aggravated animal cruelty.

Mason Shepard, 18, is a senior starter on the Northwest Whitfield Bruins football team. 

Investigators with the Whitfield County Sheriff's Office arrested Shepard, a 17-year-old and a 16-year-old after a video of the trio recording themselves killing chickens surfaced online.

According to Whitfield County Schools' policy handbook, any student who is charged with a felony is immediately suspended from participating in sports.

"When you're a part of one of our athletic teams, you represent our schools, and as such, you're expected to hold yourself to a standard when you're out in public. Part of that is making sure you follow the laws of society," said Chris Parker, the school district's athletic director.

The graphic video, reported to authorities by another student, has since been removed from YouTube.

"This is the only time that I know of personally that we've had a situation like this, where it's outside of the school system, and they've been charged with a felony out in the community," said Parker.

But Shepard's parents want him to play for his final season. School officials confirmed they received an appeal letter from the player's family that requests the Board of Education to reverse the decision.

While the school board can order a hearing, it's not listed on an agenda yet.

"We ask people to be patient with us, and let us run through our system and our procedures," Parker said.

In Georgia, animal cruelty can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.

In more serious cases, a person must "knowingly and maliciously cause death or physical harm." Aggravated animal cruelty carries a sentence of up to five years in prison or a $15,000 fine.
Even though Shepard's charges are nothing more than charges right now, school policy says that's enough to keep him off the field.

"We ask, you know, anytime something like this happens, to be patient and let the facts play themselves out," said Parker.

Shepard and the 17-year-old were released from the Whitfield County Jail on $1,500 bonds.

Channel 3 made contact with Shepard to get his side of the story, but he said he's been advised not to speak with the media.

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