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The Sayreville War Memorial High School football players implicated in the team's hazing scandal will be tried as juveniles.
Prosecutors announced on Monday that they have decided to try the seven Sayreville players charged with crimes in family court, reports The Star-Ledger. Prosecutors had been considering moving the criminal cases against the players to the adult criminal justice system using New Jersey's judicial waiver rules.
What does this decision mean for the players charged in connection with the hazing?
Reduced Potential Penalties
The prosecutors' decision means that the players' subsequent family court proceedings will be closed to the public. The players will also face significantly reduced potential penalties if found criminally responsible in juvenile court than if convicted in the adult criminal justice system.
For example, three of the players are charged with aggravated sexual assault, which under New Jersey criminal law is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Under the state's juvenile code, a minor found responsible (or judged delinquent) for aggravated sexual assault results in a maximum sentence of four years.
Charges Include Aggravated Assault, Hazing
The three players charged with aggravated sexual assault are also charged with conspiracy and criminal restraint for allegedly pinning down and sexually penetrating younger players. Four other players are charged with aggravated assault, conspiracy, and hazing, a crime under New Jersey law.
After school officials became aware of the hazing allegations earlier this year, the remainder of the team's football season was cancelled. Both current and former players alleged that hazing had become a tradition within the school's football program.
According to the New Jersey Attorney General's website, the most common punishment in juvenile cases is probation, in which juvenile offenders are subject to supervision in addition to paying restitution, performing community service, or other requirements. When a juvenile is sentenced to incarceration, the average sentence is two years.