Seven high school football players from Sayreville (N.J.) War Memorial High School were charged with sex crimes Friday evening in relation to an alleged hazing scandal that led to the cancellation of the team’s season.
Three of the seven were charged with aggravated sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, conspiracy to commit aggravated sexual contact, criminal restraint, and hazing for engaging in an act of sexual penetration, Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey announced Friday evening, according to multiple reports. The other four were charged with various counts including aggravated criminal sexual contact, aggravated assault, and hazing.
Matthew Stanmyre and Sue Epstein of NJ Advance Media shared details of the allegations against the seven teens:
According to the complaints filed in the matter, one or more of the players held victims against their will, while others improperly touched victims in a sexual manner. In one case, one of the victims was kicked during an attack, said the prosecutor's office. Prosecutors said the events took place in four separate incidents at Sayreville War Memorial High School, between Sept. 19 and Sept. 29.
According to Sue Epstein of NJ Advance Media, six of the seven players charged last night are “currently being held by law enforcement authorities until a Family Court judge decides whether the youths should be held at a detention facility pending a court hearing or will be released to the custody of their parents or guardians pending the hearing.” Since they’re all under the age of 18, they’re currently set to be tried as juveniles, but the prosecutor’s office could “ask a judge to ‘waive’ them to adult criminal court,” Epstein reported.
If they’re tried as juveniles, the aggravated sexual assault count carries a maximum of five years incarceration; however, if tried as adults, they could spend up to 20 years behind bars upon a conviction. There’s a similar discrepancy in terms of the punishments for aggravated assault, per Epstein: Juveniles can be incarcerated for 60 days to a year, while the sentencing for adults can result in up to 10 years incarceration.
In a statement on the district’s website posted Friday evening, Superintendent Richard Labbe announced that the district administration has launched an investigation into all athletic and extracurricular programs “in order to ensure that we take all steps necessary now and in the future to protect all our students.”
“In the ensuing days, weeks, and months, we will come together as a school district and greater community to harness the strength required to support the young men who may have been victimized and then to begin the healing process for our beloved community,” Labbe said.
The Sayreville scandal caught the attention of N.J. Gov. Chris Christie, who told reporters Thursday that he had already spoken with the state education commissioner and attorney general regarding the allegations:
Christie mentioned that the culture that allowed these alleged acts to occur unchecked needs to be addressed not only in Sayreville, but across the entire state. And as FOX Sports’ Kevin Vaughan reported Friday, the problematic behavior of football players going unchecked isn’t just a New Jersey problem.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.