Keeping Sayreville teens off Megan’s Law list ‘business as usual,’ advocate says
Six Sayreville football players committed serious crimes — taking part as younger players were held down and digitally penetrated and fondled — authorities say.
It's been commonly called the Sayreville hazing scandal. But Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey had another term for it when he charged the six and one other still awaiting trial— sexual assault. It's a case Carey says he's proven.
And yet, the six won't be placed on the Megan's Law sex offender list, Carey said Monday night, when he announced four had pleaded guilty to lesser offenses, and two were adjudicated delinquent following an earlier family court trial. They'll be subject to probation, not jail time.
Richard Pompelio, executive director of the New Jersey Crime Victims Law Center in Newton, said the Sayreville War Memorial High School case is "business as usual" in the New Jersey court system.
Defense lawyers will cut deals so their clients are not charged with a sexual offenses, which keeps them off the Megan's Law list, said Pompelio — who says "standards are too high in New Jersey" for prosecutors to win cases.
"So there is pressure on prosecutors across the state to reach plea deal. God forbid we have a trial in this state," scoffed Pompelio. He says he warns his clients in cases he handles across the state that their experience will not be what they expect from watching TV crime shows. "It's not 'Law and Order.' ... It's depressing."
Carey said in announcing that the six had pleaded guilty to lesser charges their cases were "resolved in accordance with juvenile laws and in the best interests of the juvenile defendants, the victims and their families." He agreed not o pursue the sex offender registry as part of their plea deals.
Oscar Holmes IV, an assistant professor of management at Rutgers-Camden and an expert on hazing, said "if the case involved children of the opposite sex, then it would have been looked upon more negatively and perhaps would have been tried as a rape case with penalties that included the guilty being included on the Megan’s law list."
Holmes has no doubt that this was a case of hazing.
The actions "were conducted under the guise of 'initiation' of some sort or 'rites of passage' into some 'organized' group/team," wrote Holmes in an a email. "However, these acts are also defined by their respective legal penalties such as assault and battery, sexual assault, etc. based on a court’s determination."
Meanwhile, many of those involved in the case have gone quiet. Townsquare Media NJ Sports Director Kevin Williams said it seems like the town and the school want to just "move on," adding that it's almost "old news" at this point.
Carey echoed the sentiment in his statement announcing the sentencing: "The community of Sayreville needs to know that these serious crimes occurred, and now must work together to heal."
A secretary for schools superintendent Dr. Richard Labbe, who suspended the team's season when the allegations first came to light, said he will have no comment on the incident. A call to current Sayreville football coach Chris Beagan, who replaced George Najjar as head coach, went unanswered Tuesday as did an email to Board of Education President Michael Macagnone.
Last spring, Beagan said he would use the incident as a "learning opportunity" for Sayreville's team, the Bombers.
"You're always going to utilize these situations as learning opportunities," he said, insisting supervision is key when handling a team of adolescents.
Sayreville opens the season on Sept. 11 at home against J.P. Stevens.
Dino Flammia contributed to this report.