Seventh New Jersey high school student surrenders in sex abuse case

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 12, 2014 2:31 PM

By Victoria Cavaliere

(Reuters) - A seventh New Jersey high school student has turned himself into authorities to face charges of sex abuse stemming from a hazing scandal that led to the cancellation of the remainder of the school's football season, authorities said Sunday.

The teenagers from Sayreville War Memorial High School are accused of sexual assaults on four different victims on four different occasions in September, according to Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey and Sayreville Police Chief John Zebrowski.

Six of the students were arrested on Friday. The seventh turned himself in to police on Saturday, according to the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office.

"On various dates between September 19, 2014 and September 29, 2014 ... one or more of the juvenile defendants either held the victims against their will, while other juvenile defendants improperly touched the juvenile victims in a sexual manner," a statement said.

Three of the defendants were charged with sexual assault and hazing, prosecutors said. One of those three and the four others were charged with aggravated assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact and other crimes.

The teens, aged 15 to 17, were expected to make a court appearance this week.

After the allegations surfaced last week, the school, which has about 1,700 students and is considered a football powerhouse, canceled remaining games for its freshman, junior varsity and varsity football teams.

Reported incidents of intimidation and bullying involving football players at the school "took place on a pervasive level," Richard Labbe, schools superintendent for Sayreville borough, said during a press conference.

Local lawmakers were urging a full investigation and asking how athletic staff could remain unaware of the abuse.

"Based on what has come out, there needs to be a total house cleaning at the Sayreville athletic department," state Senator Raymond Lesniak told NJ Advance Media.

The Sayreville Bombers varsity football team has won three state sectional championships and the head coach, George Najjar, was inducted into the New Jersey Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Najjar told local media he was not yet ready to issue a statement on the criminal scandal and said he was uncertain of his future with the school.

It was unclear if there would be more charges or arrests.

If convicted of the most serious charge of aggravated sexual assault, students could face up to five years in a juvenile detention center.

If prosecuted as adults, they face up to 20 years in prison.

(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere in Seattle; Editing by Eric Walsh)