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Teen Assault Defendants to be Tried in Family Court

December 22, 2014 | Posted In Criminal Law

The seven high school football players who are facing sexual assault charges for a hazing incident at Sayreville War Memorial High School last September will remain in family court, criminal defense attorneys in New Jersey report. Recently, Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey decided not to ask the family courts to waive jurisdiction — a move that would have taken the cases to criminal court where the defendants, ages 15 to 17, would have been tried as adults.

In a press release, Carey stated that although “the conduct in which the juvenile defendants engaged was serious and that is why criminal charges were filed, [it] would not best serve the interests of the victims, the community, or the defendants” to move the cases to criminal adult court.

Adult Crime Committed by Teens

Because the hazing incident was sexual in nature, it has been difficult for the prosecution to determine the best venue for the hearings and eventual trial — family or adult court. The players have been accused of attacking four separate victims at the high school between September 19 and September 29 of this year. During the attacks, the upperclass players held down incoming freshman team members and touched them in a sexual manner, all as part of a hazing ritual to join the team. The incidents were discovered after a complaint from the parent of one of the team members, and charges have been filed against all seven players involved.

Three of the players are facing charges of aggravated sexual assault because the victims were sexually penetrated and under the age of 16. This first-degree crime carries a prison sentence of anywhere from 10 to 20 years, and under the No Early Release Act, 85 percent of this sentence must be served. The other charges filed include aggravated criminal sexual contact, conspiracy, restraint and hazing, all of which carry serious but slightly less lengthy penalties.

Juvenile Court vs. Adult Court

If the teens had been tried as adults, a guilty finding could have resulted in 10 or more years in adult prison for the three teens facing the most serious charges. However, because the cases will stay in family court, the penalties will be less severe for the teenage defendants. The maximum sentence for such crimes in juvenile family court is four years, and any sentence handed down will most likely be served out in the New Jersey Training School for Boys, a facility with about 200 other male juveniles, ages 12 to 23.

Another difference between juvenile and adult court is the Megan’s Law requirement for sex offenders. If convicted, the boys may need to register as offenders for at least 15 years, but they will not have to undergo parole supervision for life as adult sex offenders are required to do. Additionally, juvenile charges are presented before judges without a jury present. The closed environment of juvenile family court helps protect the identities of both the victims and the defendants that have not been released previously because all parties involved are minors.

At the law offices of Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, our criminal defense lawyers represent juveniles and adults who have been charged with sexual misconduct, assault or any other criminal activity. To discuss your case, contact an HCK attorney today.  

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