A Benton County sheriff's sergeant, on a sweep to track down sex offenders who let their registrations lapse, located one at Gill Coliseum, the heart of Oregon State's bucolic campus. It was Luke Heimlich , the ace left-hander who statistically is the nation's best pitcher and is among the top prospects in next week's Major League Baseball draft. As a teenager, Heimlich pleaded guilty to a single charge of sexually molesting a 6-year-old female family member.
Heimlich registered as a sex offender in Benton County after arriving at Oregon State. When he was cited in April for missing an annual update, it put the case in Oregon court records for the first time. Juvenile court records in Washington, unlike in Oregon, are not automatically confidential.
It's not clear whether Heimlich disclosed his August conviction to Oregon State prior to joining the team in Washington classified Heimlich as a low-risk sex offender. Heimlich, 21, did not respond to several requests for comment. Baseball coach Pat Casey declined to comment. Scott Barnes, Oregon State's athletic director, would not specifically address Heimlich's case, citing student privacy laws.
Nor would Barnes, who assumed his role in February, say when the athletic department learned that Heimlich was a registered sex offender. At a time when colleges have been accused of going easy on top athletes for on-campus misconduct, Heimlich's story spotlights how Oregon State and other schools treat athletes who have committed felonies as juveniles. The NCAA sets no national policy. As a result, college programs with an incentive to win games are left setting standards about whether convicted felons can play.
Oregon State does not have a policy barring student-athletes with prior felony convictions from competition, Barnes said. And the athletic department, like the university at large, does not ask student-athletes to disclose criminal convictions during the admissions process.
Barnes consequently said he does not know how many Oregon State student-athletes have prior felony convictions, if any, beyond Heimlich. Oregon State Police send the university a list of registered sex offenders in Benton County "on a regular ongoing basis," Clark said.
The university then cross-checks those names with its student database to verify sex offenders who have enrolled. The state police would not say how often the agency provides such lists to the university. Assuming that process worked, then university officials would have learned about Heimlich's sex-offender status sometime after his arrival on campus in fall , before his rise to stardom.
University procedures call for sharing the information with officials from human resources, the Office of Student Life and the campus police. The human resources department notifies the student and requests an interview. Decisions are made on the basis of "educational need to know," Clark said. The university's written procedures call for the Office of Student Life to find out if an offender is a student-athlete, although university officials say they treat all students the same.
But on Thursday, after a version of this story was published online, Clark provided new information. Under university practice, he said, the athletics department is supposed to be notified when a student-athlete is a registered sex offender. Citing student privacy rules, Clark would not say whether that happened. The victim's mother said she doesn't understand why Heimlich has been allowed to play baseball at Oregon State. Heimlich has helped make Oregon State the favorite to win its first national title since Both Barnes and Clark defended Oregon State's admissions policy allowing convicted felons to enroll and play college sports.
Clark pointed to the U. Department of Education's efforts to make higher education more accessible to all people, which prompted a directive urging universities to narrowly target the questions they ask applicants about criminal backgrounds.
But Clark also said that Oregon State's practices haven't changed since at least Officials acknowledged the possibility they will revisit the policy in the future. The conviction Heimlich's felony conviction stems from an incident prosecuted by Pierce County beginning in March The young victim had reported Heimlich's abuse to her mother, and the father later contacted authorities, according to a probable cause document filed by prosecutors.
The girl told investigators that inside Heimlich's bedroom, he pulled down her underwear and "touched her on both the inside and outside of the spot she uses to go to the bathroom," according to court records. Prosecutors initially charged Heimlich with two counts of molestation for incidents between September and September , and between September to December In Washington, child molestation in the first degree is a Class A felony.
Heimlich ultimately pleaded guilty to one count of molestation between February and December , a period in which he was Prosecutors dismissed the other charge as part of a plea bargain. The guilty plea eliminated any need for "further interviews of the victim or her testimony at trial," prosecutors wrote. Heimlich acknowledged guilt in his own handwriting.
Research shows that the vast majority of juveniles convicted of sex crimes do not reoffend in subsequent years. After about three years, the likelihood of reoffending is "very small," said psychologist Michael Caldwell, who lectures at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
At five years, the recidivism rate for another sex crime hovers at 2. That's because juvenile sex offenders tend to mature and respond well to intervention, Caldwell said. Heimlich entered a diversion program, received two years of probation and was ordered to attend sex offender treatment for two years, according to court records. He was sentenced to 40 weeks of detention at Washington's Juvenile Rehabilitation authority.
But that sentence was suspended and he served no time, according to court records, because he successfully completed probation. Heimlich was ordered to register as a Level 1 sex offender in Washington beginning Aug. Washington characterizes Level 1 offenders as having "the lowest possible risk to the community and their likelihood to re-offend is considered minimal. Oregon law requires juveniles who were convicted of a sex crime in another state to register as a sex offender if the crime is a felony in Oregon.
Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis said that would be true in Heimlich's case, considering the statute under which he pleaded guilty in Washington. Oregon lawmakers created the registry in Its purpose, the law says, is "to assist law enforcement agencies in preventing future sex offenses. The information is available to police but is not generally shared with the public unless someone calls Oregon State Police to ask. It's not clear when Heimlich registered as a sex offender in Oregon.
A spokesman for the Oregon State Police declined to answer specific questions about Heimlich, saying state law is ambiguous about what can be publicly disclosed. The agency would say only that his sex-offender registration is now current and that he is not in Level 3, a category considered to have the highest risk of reoffending. Heimlich did register with Oregon authorities at some point in the past.
The Benton County Sheriff's operation that snared Heimlich on April 3 was targeting offenders who previously had registered, but had failed to provide updates as required by state law. Authorities found Heimlich at 2: Heimlich told authorities he had notified them whenever he changed addresses during his years in Corvallis, said Capt. Nonetheless, Heimlich was handed a criminal citation because he didn't report to authorities within 10 days of his most recent birthday.
Lack of standards University President Ed Ray has taken tough public stances in the past on prior conduct of athletes. The conference later adopted a version of Ray's proposed new policy. Clark, the Oregon State spokesman, said the university has learned from Tracy's legacy, instituting sexual-violence prevention efforts that are tops on the West Coast, if not the nation.
But Oregon State remains far more lenient than some schools it competes with when it comes to identifying and allowing convicted felons to participate in sports. The NCAA has no policy barring convicted felons from intercollegiate play.
The association defers to athletic conferences and schools to make the call. The University of Oregon used to have an unwritten policy prohibiting convicted felons from playing sports. The issue came to light in when the athletic director blocked a football player from joining the Ducks.
A judge subsequently reduced the player's felony conviction to a misdemeanor, allowing him to play. Oregon no longer practices that policy. But since , all students who apply to Oregon, including athletes, have been asked to disclose convictions during the admissions process. Athletic officials use the information to make decisions about athletic participation on a case-by-case basis, according to an athletic department spokesman.
At Indiana University, which twice lost to Oregon State's baseball team this year, officials adopted a new policy in April banning student-athletes convicted of a felony involving "sexual violence. At the University of Utah, which plays in the Pac with Oregon State, officials say they prohibit some felons from playing.
The athletic director "will not allow known felons to be admitted out of high school," said Liz Abel, an athletic department spokeswoman, in an email. That extends to juveniles convicted of crimes that are felonies in adult court. Exceptions can be made under Fresno State's policy, but only with written approval from the athletic director and the university president. Any coach who obtains the exception "assumes a heightened degree of responsibility" to ensure the athlete meets character, academic and athletic standards.
A deep dive on Luke Heimlich Heimlich's rise Oregon State is on the verge of a return to the College World Series thanks in large part to Heimlich, who arguably has pitched the greatest season of any player in Beavers history.
On Saturday, Heimlich threw one of his best games. He improved his win-loss record to with a 0. The seventh of eight children, Heimlich was homeschooled until his sophomore year of high school, when he transferred to Puyallup High School as a fully enrolled student. As a high school junior in spring , he led the varsity team to a 4A state title. That award recognized not only his athletic excellence and good grades but also "exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field.
And that's when it really changed. The victim's mother said she does not keep tabs on Heimlich but knows he's one of the top players in the United States. She said her daughter was young enough that "she doesn't really remember everything that happened," but nonetheless has been ostracized from family events because most members of the Heimlich family have sided with Luke.