Sex assault, hot-iron branding during teens’ trip in NJ, prosecutor says
WESTAMPTON — Two Junior ROTC students from Queens have been charged with assaulting fellow classmates in a hazing incident last year during a trip to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.
The two teenagers are being prosecuted in Burlington County because the hazing happened at the Hilton Garden Inn in Westampton, prosecutors said. The teens were students at Francis Lewis High School.
The Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps is a federal education program in schools that supports military service and skills.
Officials say one of the victims was burned in his buttocks with a hot iron. Three other students were "mistreated" and forced to "engage in humiliating conduct." One of the teens was charged with committing an act of sexual penetration.
The charges against one teen are second-degree aggravated assault, five counts of second-degree child endangerment, two counts of third-degree invasion of privacy, third-degree aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, third-degree possession of weapon for an unlawful purpose, third-degree conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, third-degree criminal coercion, fourth-degree aggravated hazing, and three counts of misdemeanor hazing.
The other teen was charged with first-degree aggravated sexual assault and had the same charges minus the aggravated assault count.
The teens are being tried as juveniles. Their names cannot be released to the public and the court proceedings will be confidential.
“Hazing does not bring organizations together; rather, it tears them apart,” Prosecutor Scott Coffina said Wednesday in a prepared statement. “There is no team-building benefit from injuring and humiliating junior members of a group as a rite of passage. Stripped of whatever ‘ritual’ it purports to be, this conduct is nothing more than assault and bullying, which we will prosecute just as vigorously as any other case, seeking to vindicate the rights and dignity of the victims who are harmed.”
Coffina said the hazing, which happened in April when the two teens were 16 years old, was reported to police in late June.
The teens were extradited to New Jersey on March 28.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.