Massillon football star and Ohio State recruit Devoe Torrence charged with rape 

In January, we told you about the rumors unfolding in Massillon concerning an "underage sex ring" ["Waiting for the Ax," January 30].

At that time, it had been three months since word had leaked to the Massillon Independent that 14 boys, ranging in age from 14 to 21, were suspected of having sex with three girls, ages 12 to 14. This would be shocking news to any small town. But in Massillon, where Washington High has won 22 state championships — and high-school football is life itself — one detail hit an especially soft spot: Four of the suspects were said to be athletes.

Back then, nobody official would speak to us. But within the rumor mill, one name kept rising: star running back Devoe Torrence.

Torrence, the brother of former Ohio State standout and current minor-league baseball player Devon Torrence, was once ranked Ohio's top high-school player. OSU was already recruiting him when he transferred to Massillon Washington as a senior, presumably to up his exposure. You could say that worked out.

But as rumors of Torrence's escapades circulated, Massillon did its best to distance town from football star. "If the rumors are true," said the father of a quarterback, "then the main character isn't a true Massillon boy anyway."

Echoed Tim Todoran of Tiger Rags, a football memorabilia store: "It helps to soften the pang of guilt, knowing this doesn't come from us."

Never mind the hometown origins of the other boys.

Last week, charges were finally levied. They implicate 13 boys, four of whom face criminal charges. One, Calvin Smith, 22, will be charged as an adult with rape. Three others, including Torrence, 17, face juvenile rape charges. The other nine, whose identities were not revealed, will have their cases handled through an "informal court process."

Stark County juvenile prosecutor Michelle Cordova makes it clear her office didn't go soft on the high-profile case. "The charges are the most severe that they can possibly receive," she says.

As for Torrence, his storied football career seems to have been killed by a tryst with a 12-year-old. Then again, the NCAA has welcomed worse into its ranks.

GE's Sweatshops

When we last left GE ["Screwed by the Bulb," January 9], the East Cleveland light-bulb maker was whacking hundreds of jobs in Northeast Ohio to manufacture its energy-efficient bulbs in China. The company's rationale was simple: Compact fluorescent bulbs are partially made by hand, and producing them overseas is much, much cheaper.

But there's apparently an added benefit of manufacturing in China: You can poison your workers and screw them on overtime, and there's no pesky union steward to yap about it.

Policy Matters Ohio, a nonprofit think tank, has issued a damning report on one of GE's major suppliers in China. Investigators found that many employees at the Xiamen Topstar Lighting Co. plant were forced to work 64-hour weeks and not paid overtime. It seems they're also not taught about handling bulbs safely — a rather disturbing concept, seeing as how they're made with toxic mercury.

GE, which owns a stake in the Topstar plant, is now in full denial mode. Spokeswoman Deborah Wexler says the company sent a team to China to investigate the claims. So far, "We have seen no evidence . . . that the alleged violations have been substantiated." She adds that an outside auditor visited the plant last September, and "did not find any evidence of employee concern over working conditions or labor practices."

Busting the Walleye

Wildlife officers have a thankless job. They don't get to take down multistate drug rings or engage in high-speed chases, unless they're in fishing boats. And you always have to march behind the Boy Scouts and the Korean War vets whenever there's a parade.

So when officer Jason Hadsell walked into L&D Bait and Tackle in Lakewood, he was just doing his job, checking for licenses and such.

But is seems that owner Larry Peterson had mounted trophy fish on his walls. It should be said that Peterson, a taxidermist, mounts a pretty good fish. The problem was the price tags accompanying them. For between $135 and $255, he'd be happy to sell you your own trophy catch.

But under Ohio law, you're not supposed to make a profit off sport game.

"Hadsell gave him a warning," says Doug Miller of the Ohio Division of Wildlife. "He said, 'Hey, this is illegal.' But this guy just thumbed his nose at him."

So a week later, Miller sent a plainclothes officer into the store to buy a trophy. Soon, Peterson found himself convicted and facing two years of probation.

It would seem a little heavy-handed. It's not like the guy was caught with elephant tusks. But Miller says there's a good reason for going sphincter on the sale of wall mounts: "People commercially hunted these species to death 40 to 50 years ago. These laws helped the wildlife populations come back."

And if people knew they could fetch 200 bucks for a single fish, they wouldn't be raiding foreclosed homes to steal copper piping. They'd be lining the piers of Lake Erie, shooting semi-automatics at anything that moved.

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