In a announcement released Monday evening, a New Jersey county prosecutor confirmed that the seven juvenile defendants charged in connection to the highly-publicized sexual hazing allegations which led to the cancellation of a high school football teams' remaining season will not be tried as adults.
Monmouth County Prosecutor Andrew Clay said the seven Sayreville War Memorial High School football players will remain in Family Court and be tried as juveniles, reported NJ.com.
“The conduct in which the juvenile defendants engaged was serious and that is why criminal charges were filed,” Carey said. “The appropriate forum for the resolution of these cases is Middlesex County Family Court. Asking the court to waive these seven juvenile cases to adult court would not best serve the interests of the victims, the community, or the defendants."
Pamela Brause, an attorney for one of the seven unnamed defendants, says Carey's decision was the right one. "I believe the prosecutor carefully weighed the facts, assessed the statutes and made the proper decision," she said.
Attorney Richard Klein, who represents another of the defendants, had similar thoughts. "Given the circumstances of the case, with both the defendants and alleged victims being juveniles, we feel that this was the right decision," he said.
Investigators said that between September 19, 2014 and September 29, 2014, one or more of the juvenile defendants allegedly either held the victims against their will, while other juvenile defendants improperly touched the juvenile victims in a sexual manner.
The allegations eventually led to cancellation of the remaining games and the suspension of five members of the Sayreville High football coaching staff, including head coach George Najjar.
According to the prosecutor’s office, the seven teens charged in the case are all between the ages of 15 and 17. Their identities are being withheld because of their ages.
Three of the juvenile defendants are charged with aggravated sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, conspiracy to commit aggravated criminal sexual contact, criminal restraint, and hazing for engaging in an act of sexual penetration upon one of the juvenile victims.
With the threat of a waiver to adult court lifted, the defendants could face lesser penalties, even if they're found guilty. They may even be spared any detention time.
But according to Laura Cohen, director of the Criminal and Youth Justice Clinic at the Rutgers School of Law, juvenile defendants in New Jersey are subject to significant penalties even when tried in juvenile court.