Lawyer says Wall, NJ ‘hazing’ was ‘not sexual’ — and adults were watching
The attorney for one of the students charged with hazing a victim at Wall High School said that what happened in the locker room was not sexual — just boys horsing around as adults watched.
"This has been blown way out of proportion," attorney Chris Adams, of the Red Bank firm Greenbaum, Rowe, Smith & Davis, said Tuesday.
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.
Adams told New Jersey 101.5 that he has seen a video of the incident and said it is inaccurate to characterize it as a sex crime.
New Jersey 101.5 has not viewed any video of the October incident.
'There is absolutely nothing sexual about anything that happened in these videos'
"The sex charge is not only unsupported by the facts but it's nothing more than playing politics and pandering. There is absolutely nothing sexual about anything that happened in these videos in the locker room," Adams said.
"Do we want to call this harassment? Maybe. Do we want to call it hazing? I don't think so. Is this a sex case? Absolutely not," Adams said.
'This is not the Sayreville case. This is not the Glen Ridge case of old.'
Coaches present at the time
Adams characterized the incident as nothing more than wrestling and horsing around by 15-to-17-year-old boys who were all dressed and in sight of the coaches.
"The coaches who witnessed this behavior saw it for what it was. Sophomoric, not sexual," Adams said.
Linskey said in her statement that she hoped a lesson was learned by students about what they should do "if they are a bystander or victim of hazing, harassment, intimidation, or bullying.”
Adams said there are "multiple witnesses and videos" showing the coaches in the room. One of the coaches blew a whistle three times to indicate that the horseplay had gone far enough, according to Adams.
"If this was sexual, as has been suggested, the coaches would have intervened. They didn't because it wasn't," Adams said.
No adults have been charged in the case and Adams doesn't think there should be any.
Three football coaches were suspended along with Wall High School Athletic Director Tom Ridoux. The BOE hired NJSIAA veteran scheduler Nicholas Pizzulli as the high school consultant for athletics through the end of the school year.
Pizzulli also stepped in as interim athletic director at Sayreville High School in 2015 after seven football players were charged in a hazing incident.
Juvenile case details confidential
Adams criticized prosecutors for releasing even the scant details that they did, which the prosecutor said was done in response to the "intense public scrutiny" that came from the media, social media and discussion among parents.
"I frankly find it reckless and irresponsible. To release facts related to juvenile charges is unprecedented and it's disingenuous to suggest that they're doing it in response to this intense public scrutiny they quoted when they're responsible for creating that scrutiny in the first place," Adams said.
Adams said he implored Linskey not to release any details about the investigation and the charges because children are involved. Instead, Adams said he suggested that Linskey simply say that the case would be handled in Family Court, which would maintain a "shroud of confidentiality" protecting children as is normally the case.
"Instead she went the extra step and called them sex crimes and that's wrong because they're not and they threw that label around a group of teenage boys and they shouldn't," Adams said. "This is not the Sayreville case. This is not the Glen Ridge case of old. This isn't the Holmdel case of decades ago," Adams said.
Notorious cases involving high school students
In 2015, seven members of the Sayreville High School football team case were charged with assaulting four individuals in the locker room.
Members of the Glen Ridge High School football team were charged in 1989 with assaulting an intellectually disabled 17-year-old girl with a baseball bat and broomstick. The case was the basis of the ABC television movie "Our Guys: Outrage at Glen Ridge."
Members of the Holmdel football team were accused of playing naked Twister with underclassmen while at a camp in Pennsylvania in 1989 leading members of the team to undergo mental health counseling.
'This has been blown way out of proportion.'
What about the broomstick?
When asked about the rumored role of a broomstick in the alleged assault, Adams said it was wrong to draw the conclusion that it was sexual in nature
“There was a gross misreporting … that this is like some kind of… Sayreville football team story or Abner Louima that someone was sodomized with a broomstick. Couldn’t be further from the truth. Nothing at all like that happened not even close," he said. "It was just teenage boys poking and trying to somebody. I think he got him in the stomach. Poked him in the belly.”
In 1997, Louima was brutally beaten by members of the NYPD outside a club and later at the station house with fists, nightsticks, handheld radios and a broomstick jammed into his mouth.
Adams said as further evidence that the incident was just playing around in the locker room, the students who were charged and the victim are all playing together on a private sports team.
"You find me one parent who believes in good conscience their son is a victim of a sex assault that would pay for the privilege of that son to go play on a private sports team with their sexual assailant. I guarantee you won't be able to find me one," Adams said. "And that should tell you these are not sex crimes. These are kids horsing around."