Seven juveniles were charged and six were taken into custody Friday night in connection with attacks on four victims at Sayreville War Memorial High School in Sayreville, N.J., authorities announced.
The seventh player was being sought by police.
Although authorities did not specify, it is widely believed the attacks refer to the alleged brutal hazing that led to the cancellation of Sayreville’s football season, which has put the middle-class town of 43,000 in the national spotlight. Two parents of freshmen football players have said this hazing consisted of digital anal penetration of the victims.
The defendants range in age from 15 to 17. Three of them are being charged with numerous of crimes, the most serious of which is aggravated sexual assault. One of those three, plus four others, are being charged with crimes including aggravated assault and aggravated criminal sexual conduct.
It is possible that some, if not all of the defendants could be tried as adults, but this would require a waiver from a juvenile court judge. The most serious of the charges, aggravated sexual assault, carries a prison sentence of 10 to 20 years for adults. A conviction as an adult on several of the charges would require the defendants to register as sex offenders.
All of the defendants are under the age of 18, which means their names will not be released. If they are tried as juveniles, their records will be sealed.
According to the press release from the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s office, the victims allege the abuse took place during a period from Sept. 19 to Sept. 29. The account of the accusations matches that given to reporters by parents of freshmen, that the defendants would hold the victims against their will “while other juvenile defendants improperly touched the juvenile victims in a sexual manner.”
As of publication, it was unknown whether the defendants were still in police custody.
Authorities said the investigation is still ongoing, which means the fate of some of the Sayreville coaches and those in supervisory roles remains an open question.
A parent of a freshman, when told about the arrests, said, “My reaction is, ‘Thank God.’ As a parent, I’ll feel a relief that at least these kids aren’t gonna be in school on Monday. They won’t have to look at these kids, walk the hall with these kids.”
A student, when reached for comment, said, “It’s like I haven’t even processed it yet. When you see something on the news about somewhere else, it’s shocking, but when it actually happens to your friends and your hometown, it’s just weird to think about.”