Six New Jersey high school football players and a seventh suspect were charged with sex crimes on Friday in connection with a hazing scandal at Sayreville War Memorial High School.
Police say the seven are involved in sexual attacks on three juvenile victims in the school’s locker room, including the sexual penetration of one of the victims.
Bullying allegations were lodged against the team by the parent of a freshman earlier this month. A subsequent investigation by the Middlesex County prosecutor’s office determined players “knew, tolerated and generally accepted incidents of harassment, of intimidation and bullying.”
"It's rape," Woodbridge-based attorney Ray Gill told MyCentralJersey.com.
Three football players are charged with aggravated sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, conspiracy to commit aggravated criminal sexual contact, criminal restraint and hazing, according to Sayreville Police Chief John Zebrowski and Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey.
One of those players and four other teammates were charged with aggravated assault, conspiracy, aggravated criminal sexual contact, hazing and riot by participating in the attack.
Between Sept. 19 and Sept. 29, one or more players allegedly held victims against their will while others touched them in a sexual manner.
A parent who spoke on the condition of anonymity told Matt Stanmyre of the NJ Advance Media about the attack:
"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," Stanmyre wrote. "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."
“[For] 10 seconds, the lights would go off and they would grab a freshman and they would go on,” the parent said. “Right on the floor. … It was happening every day. They would get the freshmen.”
“Kids would just sit around and witness [stuff] like this,” he added.
The head coach at Penn State, James Franklin, is monitoring the Sayreville case after the university just recruited its star player, Myles Hartsfield. Hartsfield is ranked No. 16 on NJ.com’s Top 50 prospect list.
The school superintendent canceled the rest of the football season and the school board unanimously backed that decision at a Tuesday meeting.
Image credit: Twitter/Cherie Pizzano