SAYREVILLE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Six teens were arrested in Sayreville, New Jersey Friday evening – and a seventh was wanted by police – in connection with alleged intimidation and hazing on the Sayreville High School football team.
Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey and Sayreville police Chief John Zebrowski announced in a news release that the six suspects – ranging in age from 15 to 17 – were being detained pending a Family Court hearing on whether they should be released to their parents or held in a juvenile detention facility.
As CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider reported, a seventh juvenile suspect was still being sought Friday evening.
Sayreville schools Supt. Richard Labbe released a statement following the arrests, saying the school system has launched a “holistic harassment, intimidation and bullying” investigation of all athletic and extracurricular programs.
“In the ensuing days, weeks, and months, we will come together as a school district and greater community to harness the strength required to support the young men who may have been victimized and then to begin the healing process for our beloved community,” Labbe said in the statement.
Prosecutors on Friday said between Sept. 19 and Sept. 29, one or more of the suspects held the victims against their will, while another suspect improperly touched them. One victim was also kicked in the head, prosecutors alleged.
Law enforcement sources told CBS 2’s Christine Sloan on Thursday that at least three young football players have come forward, alleging they were sexually assaulted and inappropriately touched by a handful of older varsity players inside the team’s locker room.
Graphic details of what allegedly happened inside the locker room at the school were also revealed in a report Wednesday on NJ.com.
The report stated that “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.”
The teen suspects were charged with aggravated sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, conspiracy to commit aggravated criminal sexual contact, criminal restraint, and hazing, prosecutors said.
The alleged behavior prompted the schools’ superintendent to cancel the rest of the season’s games.
Labbe announced Monday he was canceling the games after the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office substantiated allegations of hazing.
“There was enough evidence that there were incidents of harassment, of intimidation and bullying that took place on a pervasive level, on a wide-scale level and at a level at which the players knew, tolerated and generally accepted,” Labbe told reporters Monday night.
The allegations also got the attention of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. On Thursday, he said if true, the reported conduct at the Middlesex County school is “extraordinarily disturbing” and “a nightmare” for the parents of the team members involved.
“As the father of a number of teenage athletes, the idea that that kind of conduct could be permitted, if it’s true, that that kind of conduct could be permitted in a high school athletic program or anywhere else in our state for that matter is absolutely unacceptable,” Christie said in Trenton on Thursday. “It tells us something about the attitude that was allowed to pervade in that program.”
Christie said he’s spoken with the attorney general’s office and his education commissioner about the investigation and has full confidence in prosecutors.
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