In a scandal that has upended an entire New Jersey town, seven teenage members of a top high school football program are facing sexual assaults charges after hazing allegations ended their season last week.
The Sayreville War Memorial High School hazing scandal was first reported by NJ Advance Media last Wednesday, days after the remainder of the football team’s season was cancelled. Before the specific allegations were revealed, Sayreville Superintendent of Schools Richard Labbe had publically described the school’s football culture as “incidences of harassment, intimidation and bullying … at a level in which the players knew, tolerated, and in general accepted.”
The football team’s alleged hazing practices sound incredibly disturbing. NJ Advance Media’s Matthew Stanmyre writes:
It would start with a howling noise from a senior football player at Sayreville War Memorial High School, and then the locker room lights were abruptly shut off.
In the darkness, a freshman football player would be pinned to the locker room floor, his arms and feet held down by multiple upperclassmen. Then, the victim would be lifted to his feet while a finger was forced into his rectum. Sometimes, the same finger was then shoved into the freshman player’s mouth.
Police began questioning Sayreville football players last week, and on Friday announced a range of charges for seven students on the team related to an alleged series of four sexual assaults against four victims during a 10-day period in September. Six students were taken into police custody Friday night, and the seventh turned himself into authorities on Sunday.
Here are the charges from the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, via NJ Advance Media:
According to Prosecutor Andrew Carey, three 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 juvenile victims. One of those defendants and four others were charged with various counts including aggravated assault, conspiracy, aggravated criminal sexual contact, hazing and riot by participating in the attack of some of the victims.
As all the defendants are under 18 years of age, they are currently slated to appear in juvenile court. If they are found guilty of aggravated sexual assault, the worst charge, the students may face up to five years in prison.
However, the Prosecutor’s Office may choose to attempt to try the students as adults, where the worst punishment they would face would be 20 years in prison and they would be registered as sexual offenders.
The case is especially sensitive for many people in Sayreville due to the powerhouse nature of the school’s football program. According to NJ Advance Media, “The varsity team, nicknamed the Bombers, has made the playoffs in each of the past 20 seasons, and Sayreville has captured three state championships over the past four years, feeding nearby Rutgers University with a host of elite players.”
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