Seven Sayreville High School Football Players Charged With Hazing, Sex Crimes In Massive Investigation

A New Jersey high school's football program is currently under criminal investigation for sex crimes related to hazing. On Friday, seven Sayreville high school students were arrested on sexual assault charges, stemming from what school officials believe was a systemic locker room hazing ritual. Six students were taken into police custody Friday night, NJ.com reports, while one student was charged and sought by police.

News of the hazing scandal at Sayreville War Memorial High School broke more than a week ago when the school forfeited a football game with nearby South Brunswick. On Oct. 6, school officials said they were shutting down the football season as they launch an investigation into claims of intense hazing, citing allegations from underclassmen students and their parents. Superintendent Richard Labbe said on Monday that Middlesex County prosecutors found enough evidence of "incidents of harassment, intimidation and bullying that took place on a pervasive level."

What we know now from the Middlesex County officials is that these alleged hazing crimes included sexual assault, sexual contact and criminal restraint, all which took place in the locker room. According to the complaints filed, the crimes were committed by upperclassmen players, ranging in age between 15 and 17. The victims were freshmen.

A parent of one of the victims spoke anonymously with NJ.com, detailing the sexual abuse. According to the parent, the older football players would howl and turn off the lights, leaving the locker room in total darkness. Then, the upperclassmen allegedly pinned the younger players to the floor before they were forcefully penetrated with fingers, NJ.com reports. The parent said this sexual abuse occurred every day in the locker room.

A statement from the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office read:

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. One of those juvenile defendants and the remaining four juvenile defendants were charged with various counts including aggravated assault, conspiracy, aggravated criminal sexual contact, hazing and riot by participating in the attack of the remaining victims.

In a press conference on Thursday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made his first public comments on the hazing investigation, calling the alleged crimes "disturbing" and "unacceptable." The governor, who emphasized that two of his children played high school sports, added:

If these facts as alleged are true, then this is a nightmare for the parents of those young men. And, it tells us something about the attitude that was allowed to pervade in that program. Both of these things need to be addressed not only specifically in Sayreville, but also more broadly across the entire state.

Although the criminal investigation has garnered attention from the sports world beyond New Jersey, coaches at Sayreville War Memorial High School, whose football team goes by the name Sayreville Bombers, have continually denied to comment to the media. The coaches have claimed they didn't know about the hazing or sexual abuse until last week.The Sayreville Bombers are one of the top high school football teams in New Jersey, having won three out of the last four state championships. The legacy of the school's storied athletic program is why parents are shocked and troubled by the recent hazing allegations. But the dismay extends far past the New Jersey border: According to NJ.com, the Sayreville Bombers' star player was committed to play football at Pennsylvania State University next fall; Penn State officials said earlier in the week that they are keeping a close eye on the investigation. (At this time, the identities of the involved players are unknown because they're being tried as juveniles.)However, not every parent is troubled by the allegations. According to CNN, some parents at a recent school meeting seemed more worried about their sons sitting out for a whole season. "I've never seen so much dedication out of my son, and I want him to play the rest of this season," one parent said. Images: screenshots/CNN, YouTube