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No Criminal Charges Against NJ Wrestling Team Seen In Lynching Photo

Phillipsburg High School wrestling team posing with a black dummy in noose. Credit: (LehighValleyLive.com)

Phillipsburg High School wrestling team posing with a black dummy in noose. Credit: (LehighValleyLive.com)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — No criminal charges will be filed against members of the Phillipsburg, N.J. High School wrestling team who were seen in a photo simulating a lynching, the Warren County Prosecutor’s Office said Thursday.

The picture showed seven boys in Phillipsburg wrestling attire surrounding a black wrestling dummy wearing a rival Paulsboro High School T-shirt and hanging from a noose. The photo, which was taken after the team won the Group 4 state championship in February, also showed two of the boys with the hoods on their sweatshirts fixed into points.

An attorney for eight members of the team said the photo was meant “innocently,” and expressed disappointment at the wrestlers being banned from the state individual tournament and suspended three days from school.

“When we spontaneously set the scene and posed for the photograph, our sole purpose was to promote school spirit and portray our wrestling team as victor over two of our arch-rivals – Paulsboro High School and Kittatinny High School, and not for any other purpose,” attorney Scott Wilhelm said in February on behalf of the students.

“Based upon the evidence obtained and the concurrence of the Attorney General’s Office after reviewing the investigative file, no criminal charges will be filed at this time,” said Prosecutor Richard T. Burke.

The matter is being returned to Phillipsburg High School officials who can decide on whatever administrative action they deem appropriate, Burke said.

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