Students from the Sayreville War Memorial High School, who have been charged for sexually hazing freshmen, could be tried as adults, The New York Times reported. Hundreds of people on Sunday conducted an anti-bullying rally in the central New Jersey town amid reports of the alleged hazing by the school’s football players.
Middlesex County authorities are facing a challenge under rising scrutiny over the sexual hazing case at the high school, an incident that led to the cancellation of the school’s football season. According to the Times, while offenders who are under the age of 18 are tried in the juvenile justice system despite their alleged involvement in serious and violent crimes, according to state law, prosecutors can apply for a waiver, after the first charging of the teenagers, which will allow bringing the case into the adult justice system.
“What happens very frequently is that the threat of waiver induces pleas in the family court,” Alexander Shalom, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, said, according to The Times. “Middlesex County has been traditionally pretty aggressive with its use of waiver.”
The waiver requests must be reportedly filed within 30 days of filing formal delinquency charges, The Times reported. The first court hearing for the teenagers is reportedly expected to take place this week.
The teenagers, whose names have not been revealed as they are all minors, were taken into custody on Friday and Saturday, and were charged as juveniles. Three of them have been charged with committing aggravated criminal sexual assault and hazing for engaging in an act of sexual penetration.
The history of the teenagers, their age, and the nature of their charges are some of the factors that will be considered before deciding whether the case will be moved into the adult justice system, The Times reported.
“Some don’t want children subjected to the very harsh ramifications of an adult prosecution and conviction,” Laura Cohen, a professor at Rutgers Law School said, according to The Times.
In the hazing case that reportedly involved four incidents — between Sept. 19 and Sept. 29 — one or more of the teens “held the victims against their will, while other juvenile defendants improperly touched the juvenile victims in a sexual manner,” Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey and Sayreville Police Chief John Zebrowski said in a statement.
“We’re just here to stop bullying in Sayreville and anywhere else. Just stop the bullying,” one woman who attended the rally on Sunday evening, said according to CBS Local.
Maureen O’Grady Jenkins, who organized the event, said, according to northJersey.com: “We care, we support you, we stand with you.”
“I want to praise the young men who did speak up. It takes a lot of guts and courage,” Jenkins reportedly said.