Tristen Kole Killman-Hardin

Tristen Kole Killman-Hardin

Former Norman High School student Tristen Killman-Hardin, 18, who was charged with first-degree rape of a fellow student, was formally arraigned Wednesday afternoon.

Cleveland County Special Judge Steve Stice set Killman-Hardin's bond at $150,000. The state had requested a $250,000 bond.

The teen said he has not had contact with a lawyer while in jail. Stice told Killman-Hardin he is required to hire a lawyer if he posts bond. If he does not hire a lawyer, he can apply for a court appointed lawyer.

His next court date was set for 1 p.m. Dec. 16 for a preliminary hearing conference.

Charges were filed Tuesday against Killman-Hardin in Cleveland County District Court. He was charged with two counts of first-degree rape of an unconscious victim.

Two other sexual assault reports were also made against Killman-Hardin.

The female accuser, 16, is currently working with an attorney to get policies changed at Norman Public Schools regarding bullying. After reporting the rape, the accuser was allegedly bullied by another student at NHS.

Elton Jenkins, the attorney representing the alleged victim, previously said the student who bullied his client was not being disciplined by school administrators. The bullying incident sparked a campaign, #YesAllDaughters, that quickly went viral.

Members of the group organized a peaceful protest at the high school, showing support for the alleged rape victims and advocating for a change in school policies.

"I think she is very grateful that people have come together, and with this issue in front of the school, and what she really wants is for changes in the policies to be made," Jenkins said Wednesday before Killman-Hardin's arraignment.

Jenkins said he was at a question-answer session for the protest and his heart went out to the young lady.

"I know that the handbook, and the rules and the law on bullying – they're difficult to understand even for an adult. She's 16 years old. So I offered to go through all of that and make sure she gets all of her rights under the handbook and the bullying statute exercised," he said.

Since the initial protest, Superintendent Dr. Joe Siano announced the district is working on implementing a comprehensive, research-based sexual assault curriculum.

While the school was under heavy scrutiny after the sexual assault reports and bullying incident, the district stated Killman-Hardin was immediately suspended after the initial sexual assault report was made. He is not expected to ever return to the school.

The district also said they received one report of bullying related to the incidents and "immediately responded to that incident," according to a press release.

When asked if his client has returned to Norman High School or another school in the district, Jenkins said he did not have any information regarding that.

He did say however, that he could see how it would be difficult for a 16-year-old to return to a school where a video of her assault circulated and where she had been bullied.

While the affidavit filed with Killman-Hardin's charges state there was video evidence of the rape, no charges were filed along the lines of production of child pornography. Jenkins said when the district attorney is trying to decide charges they have to have very specific information.

"It's hard to know without knowing what the report actually says and I have not seen it. Those things are difficult to prove even if you know that they're true," he said.

Jenkins said rape cases are generally difficult to prosecute, but he believes this one is different. It is stronger because there is more information with the video and audio evidence.

The attorney said he has heard the audio during which Killman-Hardin allegedly admits to "having sex" with the 16-year-old while she was unconscious.

"This (case) is different because there's audio of the perpetrator here if it can be confirmed it was him," Jenkins said, adding that it is going to be very difficult for the defendant to explain what he said if it does get confirmed.

"I've heard the audio and I'm sure it's him, but I don't know if he's denying it," Jenkins said.

As far as the other cases go, Jenkins said he talked to the investigator and the district attorney and they are still trying to go through and get more information involving those incidents.

Jenkins said he believes his client has felt some relief since she received the news that Killman-Hardin was charged.

"When she got the news that the charges were actually made I think she felt some relief and she's looking forward to finishing out the process," he said.

As far as advocating for change in school policy, Jenkins said he thinks his client is a brave, young woman and he's proud of her.

"She's 16 years old and she knew that this would cause her to be in a lot of pain and I find her extremely brave for what she's doing and especially knowing in the beginning that this is going to be a long process," he said. "She's ready, willing and able to do it and I'm proud of her."

Jessica Bruha

366-3540

jbruha@normantranscript.com

Follow me @jbruhaTNT

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