Hazing victim’s family outraged; Wall, NJ offered to pay suspects’ tuition
The family of a hazing victim at Wall High School is outraged over the characterization of the incident as mere horseplay in which a teammate was innocently poked in the stomach by a broomstick.
"Getting poked in the stomach and belly? He firmly believed that he was about to be sodomized and was scared to death. Mental scars that he will have to carry for the rest of his life," a family spokesman said about the victim's experience a day after an attorney publicly defended the accused students.
On Monday, Monmouth County Acting Prosecutor Lori Linskey announced juvenile complaints against an unspecified number of students. The complaints charge the students with hazing, attempted criminal sexual contact, criminal sexual contact, false imprisonment, and harassment. They were not charged with the more serious crime of sexual assault.
Chris Adams, the attorney for one of the suspects, told New Jersey 101.5 that nothing that happened in the locker room was sexual. He called the case "politics and pandering" by prosecutors.
NJ.com on Friday reported that a month before the charges were announced, the district had offered to pay the private school tuition of some of the accused if they agreed to leave the district. As many as four students rejected the offer, New Jersey 101.5 has learned.
The district suspended players involved in the case but the fact that such an unorthodox offer was made instead of expulsion indicates that district officials did not seem to believe that what happened rose to the level of criminality. If so, Monmouth County prosecutors ultimately disagreed.
The family of one of the victims says the truth is that the teen who found himself at the mercy of his teammates was absolutely terrified by the thought that he was about to be sodomized by a broomstick just before a coach blew the whistle and interrupted the hazing.
'He was absolutely petrified that he was about to be sexually assaulted'
"I am absolutely appalled that Chris Adams is downplaying this incident as 'boys horsing around as adults watched,'" the family spokesman said. "The coach blew the whistle three times as he was entering the locker room. It was only at that time that they stopped with the broom assault."
New Jersey 101.5 is not identifying the family member in order to protect the privacy of a minor and of a victim of a reported crime.
The Prosecutor's Office has not provided details of what took place in the locker room because the law and court rules prevent them from revealing most details in matters involving underage suspects.
The content of videos of the reported hazing have been widely reported to have involved a broomstick. New Jersey 101.5 has not viewed the video.
Adams insisted that reporting about the incident made it seem like a "Sayreville football team story or Abner Louima that someone was sodomized with a broomstick. Couldn’t be further from the truth."
"It was just teenage boys poking and trying to somebody. I think he got him in the stomach. Poked him in the belly," he told New Jersey 101.5.
But the victim's family said the student was "absolutely petrified" that he was about to be sexually assaulted.
The coaches were not in the locker room when the assault took place and one of them blew his whistle three times as he entered the locker room.
"He was undressed, being held down aggressively by teammates and about to be on the receiving end of a broom. He was petrified!" the family spokesman said.
The spokesman said there were six perpetrators in the locker room but did not know how many students were assaulted. He said the family first became aware of the attack when they were asked to come to police headquarters and were shown the video.
Trying to move on
The student has tried to get past the attack, the family spokesman said.
"He's a tough and quiet kid. He continues to try and stay focused on school," he said.
The family believes the school needs to come up with a strict hazing policy.
"One strike and you're out. If it happens once, they should not only be subject to criminal prosecution, but they should no longer be able to play school sports and should be suspended for an extended period of time," the spokesman said.
Adams stands by his comments
Adams said he sympathizes with any child who may have suffered but reaffirmed that the victim in the assault was fully clothed.
"Any suggestion that any incident where any boy had his clothes off is 100% false. It did not happen," Adams told New Jersey 101.5. "There is no truth to any suggestion that anyone was undressed or that this was in any way sexual."
He said multiple witnesses have said the assault took place in front of adults while most of the videos show it happening in front of the coach's office in the locker room.
Adams also hit back at those questioning his account.
"Family members and lawyers wishing to sue the school should stop trying to sensationalize this for their own gain and tell the truth about what happened with these children," Adams said.