Luke Heimlich, a standout pitcher for Oregon State’s top-ranked baseball team, pleaded guilty to a single count of molesting a 6-year-old girl when he was a teenager.
PORTLAND — Luke Heimlich, a standout pitcher for Oregon State’s top-ranked baseball team, pleaded guilty to a single count of molesting a 6-year-old girl when he was a teenager.
Heimlich’s criminal history was reported by The Oregonian on Thursday, a day or two before he’s slated to pitch in this weekend’s regional final against Vanderbilt. The winner advances to the College World Series.
The left-hander from Puyallup is projected to be an early round pick in next week’s Major League Baseball draft. MLB spokesman Michael Teevan said the league had no comment.
In an editorial accompanying the article, the newspaper said it learned about Heimlich’s 2012 conviction while doing a routine background check before running a profile on him.
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Heimlich failed to renew his registration as a sex offender in Oregon within 10 days of his most recent birthday and was cited in Benton County on a misdemeanor charge that was dismissed last month, according to court records reviewed by the AP.
That citation led The Oregonian to the Washington state case and it obtained those records using a public information act request.
Heimlich did not respond to requests for comment from the newspaper. Coach Pat Casey declined to comment.
Heimlich’s attorney, Stephen Ensor, did not return a call from the AP.
Oregon State spokesman Steve Clark declined to say when Oregon State became aware of Heimlich’s status as a registered sex offender or to answer any questions about the case, citing federal laws that protect student privacy.
The state police provide the school with a list of registered sex offenders who are affiliated with the campus on a regular basis, Clark said, and the school then interviews each person and puts safeguards in place to protect other students and staff.
He declined to say if Heimlich’s name had been provided to the school by the Oregon State Police.
“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,” Clark told the AP.
“What I would offer to you is we’re very aware of this matter now and we take this very seriously.”
OSU president Ed Ray called the account “disturbing” in a statement released Thursday and said the school “does not condone the conduct as reported.”
“But we also understand that this case involves a criminal matter that was previously addressed by the judicial system in the state of Washington,” he wrote.
Students who are registered sex offenders are not allowed to live in student residence halls or work with minors, he said.
Prosecutors initially charged Heimlich with two counts of molestation for abuse that began when the girl was 4, The Oregonian said.
Heimlich ultimately pleaded guilty to one count of molestation between February 2011 and December 2011, a period during which he was 15. Prosecutors dismissed the other charge as part of a plea bargain.
He 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 classified in Washington state as the lowest-level sex offender with little risk of repeating the behavior. He finished his probation and court-ordered classes in fall 2014, around the time he moved to Corvallis to attend Oregon State.
Clark, the OSU spokesman, said he didn’t know if publicity about the case would lead to any changes in this weekend’s pitching lineup.
Heimlich is the top pitcher on Oregon State’s top-ranked baseball team, compiling an 11-1 record with a 0.76 earned-run average.
Mariners amateur scouting director Scott Hunter was asked before the Mariners-Twins game in Seattle if the team would pull Heimlich off the draft board.
“That will be something we sit down and talk about. That just hit our draft room this morning. Without going into any specifics on any player in the draft, there’s a lot of stuff out there that may be true or may not be true, until we do our investigation of the player and dig into it. With any player, our background and the background checks we do with our scouts and finding out more information about a player. I think we are at a point where we are just learning what’s happening.”
How serious is the evaluation of a player’s criminal background?
“It’s obviously huge,” Hunter said. “Any time you want to start a player’s career, you want to make sure they have every avenue to get to the big leagues. It could be a number of reasons that could draw red flags. If you have other things that are taking away from the focus of what your main job is — and that’s trying to get better and trying to get to the big leagues. It’s obviously a concern for us and probably every team in baseball.”