Sayreville War Memorial High School football players accused of sexually abusing and hazing four teammates will be tried as juveniles, reports NBC. The seven boys, age 15-17, were arrested Oct. 10 for the alleged hazing and sexual abuse of four of the team’s freshman players. Andrew C. Carey, Middlesex County, N.J. prosecutor, said that while the crimes are serious, he does not feel the boys should be tried as adults.
In cases where the defendant is a minor, he is sent first to juvenile court whatever the crime, and it is for the prosecutor to decide within 30 days whether to suggest the defendant be“waived” to adult court. Carey says he does not feel that waiving the boys would be in the best interest of the victims, the defendants, or the community. The seven Sayreville boys are currently on house arrest and the rest of the football season has been cancelled.
Each of the four freshman victims was purportedly assaulted at a different time, and both witnesses and victims reported that over a period of 10 days, the older boys would turn off the locker room lights, play loud music and pin a freshman player to the ground. The older boys would then grope the trapped boy’s genitals and in one or more cases, kick the boy or penetrate him with a finger.
Officials at Sayreville have suspended both players and coaches in the wake of the accusations against the juveniles, reports The New York Times, and the Sayreville superintendant has said he is unsure whether the football program will continue after the trial. Meanwhile, residents in the New Jersey town have split, with some in support of the coaches and defendants, saying the boys were only fooling around.
Others are in support of the school superintendant’s decision to suspend the coaches, the players, and the program. Some were also confused as to why the coaches did not notice or question the strange behavior of victims who began changing outside the locker rooms to avoid an assault. Some residents of the town have come to the coaches’ defense, holding the district accountable for not giving them necessary training to monitor the bullying. Some Sayreville victims have faced further harassment on social media from fellow students for speaking out about the assaults.
According to the New York Daily News, three of the defendants face serious charges, including aggravated sexual assault, a crime which—were the boys tried as adults—could land them in prison for 20 years. Trying the boys in family court does not only reduce the harshness of the punishments that may be meted out, it also gives the judge more flexibility in rehabilitative measures she may choose to impose. Juvenile court has a greater emphasis on rehabilitation than punishment, in comparison to adult court, says the Daily News.
According to The Times (as cited in Business Insider), the boys were not naked at the time of the assault, and two of the alleged victims interviewed said that they did not consider the assaults serious. Though family court often means reduced punishment, the circumstances of the crime still weigh heavily on cases involving juveniles. Whether the players are tried as juveniles or adults, says The New York Times, conviction of a sex crime will require the Sayreville teenagers to register as sex offenders for no less than 15 years.
By Sree Aatmaa Khalsa
Photo by: Kate Ter Haar – Flickr License