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The Legal Process Regarding The Sayreville High School Hazing Incident


Interviewer: What’s going to happen with this investigation? What’s going to be happening and how long do you think this all is going to take?

James Abate: The first thing is that the prosecutor’s office has announced that it has decided that it will not charge the youths that were involved in this as adults. That’s very surprising to me and I thought they were going to send a clear message as they’re doing with the fallout from what happened in this situation. Things of a high profile in New Jersey are dealt with just to teach other people and prosecutors that this is how we’re going to handle this. I’m a little surprised they’re being dealt with as juveniles.

It is a Possibility that the Prosecutor is Going To Look for a Narrator in this Case

One other thing, I assume, will be happening as the young men obtained counsel and I’d have to be careful what I say because I could very well be representing one of these young men; my expectation is the prosecutor is going to be looking for a narrator. What I mean by that is he’s going to make an offer to each person who’s been charged, and there were seven or eight boys charged, and he’s going to say, “You come forward now and you’ll be dealt with less severely than the others”, and he’ll make that offer to several of them.

The Narrator Will be Dealt with Leniently As Compared to the Other Offenders

The first one who takes the deal is going to tell everything that went on and he’s going to narrate for a jury or for a prosecutor what the extent of this was, where it started, what school officials knew and what the other boys did. He’s not going to get out of this completely but he’ll get more beneficial treatment than the boys who do not come forward and take the deal.  Only one of them is going to get that.

The Cancellation of the Football Season is a Trivial Matter when Compared to the Hazing Incident

Interviewer: Do you foresee any sort of difficulty because a lot of parents are concerned about their seasons being cancelled?

James Abate: Yes.  Their seasons’ being cancelled is the least of anybody’s worries but this is again why it was such a brave act for the school superintendent to do what he did. One thing they don’t highlight in the news about Dr Labbe is that this is his first year as superintendent there. He’s come into an environment where football is very big, maybe not as big as it would have been in Penn State but that’s a very big culture in Sayreville with the football program. It may be that if he had been indoctrinated in their program, he wouldn’t have done what he did or he wouldn’t have cancelled the season. There may be some people whose children are trying to get divisional scholarships and not being recruited there or not being able to be seen by recruiters till senior year.

Conspiracy Exists Whenever there are One or More People who see Something and Don’t Say Anything About It

It’s something they feel is unfair but there is an answer to that. If you see something like this, speak up, don’t let it go on because the bigger problem they have is they could be brought into this act of hazing. Conspiracy exists whenever there are one or more people who see something and don’t say anything about it.  So, anybody in that locker room could have been charged with conspiracy to committing aggravated hazing. They shouldn’t be thinking about getting seen by recruiters, they should be thinking about what could have happened to them in a criminal sense. They could have charged everybody on the team if they wanted to.

All the Teammates Of the Football Team Could Potentially be Charged with Conspiracy

Just to get to what they’re under, as far as hazing and aggravated hazing under 2C:40-3, a person is guilty of hazing as a disorderly person’s offense and so it’s the misdemeanor version if in connection with initiation of some sort if they knowingly or recklessly organize, promote, facilitate or engage in conduct which places or may place another place in danger of bodily injury. That’s the disorderly person’s version but it certainly sounds like what we’ve done and as you can see is it’s not just did you do it. It’s if you engage, promote, facilitate; facilitate could mean you locked the door, facilitate could mean you didn’t say anything. Then there’s also aggravated hazing in the fourth degree just punishable by a year-and-a-half in jail if that’s committed and it results in a bodily injury to another person which clearly happened here.

A Person Indicted and Convicted for Aggravated Sexual Assault Could Face 10 to 20 Years in Prison and a $200,000 Fine

They could have also faced charges of sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault occurs when someone commits an act of sexual penetration with another person under circumstances where one of the situations is between 13 and 16 years old. If you have supervisory or disciplinary power over the victim and those are just two of the standards that go into this.  That clearly happened here by a number of people and somebody indicted and convicted under that section of the criminal law could be looking at 10 to 20 years in prison and a $200,000 fine in addition to their legal fees and what it’s going to take to bail them out of jail. This is something which would stretch even the strongest of families to its breaking point. The fact that they can’t play football this year really isn’t the first thing that I would be thinking about.

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