Morristown residents have likely heard about a recent case from less than an hour south of us involving a number of juvenile defendants. The allegations are concerning, but it’s important to remember that at this point, they are just that — allegations. Like anyone facing criminal charges, the defendants are entitled to a presumption of innocence and to defend themselves in court. The case also raises some important points about juvenile crimes that our readers may find informative.
The allegations began as harassment and bullying of younger players by some senior members of the local high school football team. But soon, a parent of one of the alleged victims claimed that the defendants’ actions involved inappropriate sexual behavior, even rising to the level of assault, in the locker room. School officials had gone so far as to cancel the entire football season as the news of the accusations spread.
Recently, six defendants — all teenagers under the age of 18 — were taken into custody and charged with a number of crimes. The charges include aggravated assault, aggravated sexual assault, conspiracy, hazing and others. Criminal restraint is also charged in connection with one victim allegedly being held against his will by the older players.
These are serious charges with potentially long-term consequences. First-degree crimes like aggravated sexual assault can land a high school student behind bars for as much as five years if convicted, and that’s even with the state charging the defendant as a juvenile. If charged as an adult — as the prosecution may choose to do in the above case — jail sentences could be much longer. Defendants may even have to register as sex offenders upon release.
Because this is an important issue to understand, we’re going to look at juvenile crimes in more detail in a follow-up post. The subject is bound to come up in the media over the coming days and weeks and we want our Morristown readers to be well-informed.