High School Football Players Charged in N.J. Hazing Case

Originally published here by the New York Times.

Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

Sayreville War Memorial High School in New Jersey. Credit Mel Evans/Associated Press

Seven New Jersey teenagers were charged on Friday in connection with a series of sexual assaults in a hazing scandal that prompted a high school to cancel the rest of its football season, the authorities said.

Six of the teenagers were taken into custody on Friday evening on charges stemming from attacks on four students in four separate encounters at Sayreville War Memorial High School, in Parlin, Andrew Carey, the Middlesex County prosecutor, said in a joint statement with Chief John Zebrowski of the Sayreville Police Department. The seventh teenager was being sought by the police, the officials said.

Those charged range in age from 15 to 17. Officials withheld their identities because they are under the age of 18.

The county prosecutor said that on four separate occasions between Sept. 19 and Sept. 29, some of the suspects held the victims, who are also juveniles, against their will, while others “improperly” touched them “in a sexual manner.” One of the victims was kicked during an attack, officials said.

The school had been scheduled to play its homecoming football game on Friday night against Monroe High School. But school officials canceled the game and the rest of the season on Monday after they received complaints that older players had bullied and harassed younger ones.

In response to the charges on Friday, Richard Labbe, the superintendent of Sayreville Public Schools said the board of education would continue to cooperate with the authorities.

“As should be evident by now, the Sayreville Board of Education takes this matter extremely seriously and thus will continue to make the safety and welfare of our students, particularly the victims of these horrendous alleged acts, our highest priority,” Mr. Labbe said.

The decision upset some parents of players on the football team, who felt the team was being unfairly punished for the actions of a few players. The school’s football team, the Bombers, has won three state titles in the last four years and regularly qualifies for the postseason.

On Thursday, Gov. Chris Christie expressed outrage at the allegations, telling reporters in Trenton that, as a father of four, he was especially appalled, according to The Associated Press.

“The facts as reported currently are extraordinarily disturbing and, as the father of a number of teenage athletes, the idea that that kind of conduct could be permitted — if it’s true — in a high school athletics program, or anywhere else in our state for that matter, is absolutely unacceptable,” he said.

Three of the defendants were charged with aggravated sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, conspiracy to commit aggravated criminal sexual contact, criminal restraint, and hazing for engaging in an act of sexual penetration upon one of the victims. One of those defendants and the other four juvenile defendants were charged with various counts, including aggravated assault, conspiracy, aggravated criminal sexual contact, hazing and riot by participating in the attack of the other victims.

The players were being held at an undisclosed detention center as of Friday night. They were awaiting a court decision on whether they would be held or released to their families until they could face a judge in family court, officials said.

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Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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