Juvenile complaints have been filed “against a number of” students at Wall Township High School in New Jersey, where football locker room hazing incidents took place last fall.
The charges — which allege hazing, attempted criminal sexual contact, criminal sexual contact, false imprisonment and harassment — were filed against the juveniles after an investigation into a series of incidents that occurred in September and October, acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey said, as reported by northjersey.com.
A separate investigation has also resulted in charges of aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault against one juvenile in connection with alleged conduct that occurred outside of school, the prosecutor said in a statement.
“It is imperative that victims of hazing, harassment, intimidation and bullying know that such conduct is not a ‘rite of passage’ and should not be endured without consequence in order to gain acceptance in social, club, sport, or academic settings,” Linskey said. “We are hopeful that the lessons gleaned from this case foster a renewed focus on actively teaching juveniles in all of our schools what conduct crosses the line of acceptability, and what students must do if they are a bystander or victim of hazing, harassment, intimidation or bullying.”
The Prosecutor’s Office said while information about charges against minors is rarely made public, the decision was made to do so in this instance as a result of “intense public scrutiny regarding these matters and a high degree of misinformation circulating with regard to them, as well as in order to educate and inform the community regarding the seriousness of such conduct.”
Christopher Adams, a criminal defense attorney in Red Bank who represents one of the juveniles charged, said Monday evening the decision by the Prosecutor’s Office to release information related to the juvenile charges was “unprecedented and grossly irresponsible.”
“There is absolutely nothing sexual about anything that happened in the videos or in the locker room and we look forward to proving that,” Adams said, according to northjersey.com. “This was wrestling and sophomoric behavior by 15, 16 and 17 year old boys before football practice in front of the coaches — if there was anything sexual the coaches would have stopped it but they didn’t because it was nothing more than horseplay. Adding a baseless sex charge is not only unsupported by the facts, but nothing more than playing politics and pandering to the media.”
Tara Breslow-Testa, an attorney representing one of the other juveniles charged added, “Today’s press release and prior video statement by the acting prosecutor puts the juveniles in the spotlight.
“Juveniles should be afforded that benefit of confidentiality and it is inconsistent with juvenile justice reform to make public comments about specific charges. Most importantly, it condemns them in public opinion before the juveniles go to court.”
Though the specific number of individuals charged was not clear, six of seven Wall High School students suspended in the football team hazing investigation were back on campus Monday, per a Board of Education suspension agreement.
In addition to athletic director Tom Ridoux, three coaches — Tony Grandinetti, Mike Cerminaro and Joe LaFerlita — remain on leave from the district, northjersey.com reported.
The investigation into allegations of abuse began in November after video of the alleged conduct circulated in the school community and eventually reached school officials.