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7 New Jersey High School Football Players Charged In Disturbing Hazing Scandal

The Sayreville players allegedly sexually assaulted freshman students, leading to a cancellation of the entire football season. Six players were arrested Friday.

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A group of football players from Sayreville War Memorial High School in New Jersey have been accused of brutally hazing their teammates.

The players' arrests were just the latest development in a story that has included allegations of violent sexual assault, as well as the cancelation of the school's entire football season.

Seven players were charged with sex crimes Friday.

Six of the players were arrested, the Associated Press reported, while police continued looking for the seventh. Prosecutors charged three of the players with aggravated sexual assault, criminal restraint, hazing and other crimes. The other four were charged with aggravated criminal sexual contact, as well as other crimes.

The players' names haven't been released because they are minors, but they range in age from 15 to 17 years old.

The criminal investigation went public in early October.

Richard Labbe, the superintendent in Sayreville, learned on Oct. 1 that someone had anonymously tipped off the police about the alleged hazing. The next day, Labbe canceled Sayreville War Memorial High's scheduled football game.

On Oct. 3, he held a press conference and said "inappropriate conduct at a significant and serious nature" was the focus of a criminal investigation.

The hazing allegedly took place last month, and was brutal.

Prosecutors say the seven players attacked four students over a ten day period beginning on Sept. 19. Earlier this week, a parent told The New Jersey Star-Ledger that the players would pin a freshman to the floor, then lift him to his feet while forcing a finger into his rectum. The parent also said the same finger would sometimes be forced into the victim's mouth. The players began the hazing by making a "howling noise."

"[For] 10 seconds, the lights would go off and they would grab a freshman and they would go on," the parent told the paper. "Right on the floor. … It was happening every day. They would get the freshmen."

The victims reportedly were as young as 13 years old, and the hazing has often been described as a "ritual."

As a result of the hazing allegations the school's entire football season was cancelled on Oct. 7.

Labbe said the district was "taking a stance" and would not "tolerate forms of harassment, intimidation and bullying," The Star-Ledger reported. New Jersey's high school athletic organization supported the decision to cancel the season, and on Thursday Gov. Chris Christie called the allegations "extraordinarily disturbing."

The allegations have rocked Sayreville, and the cancelation of the football season has outraged many.

Some have argued that canceling the season punishes students who weren't involved in the hazing. Others said the coaching staff should be held accountable.

AP Photo/ Home News Tribune, Mark R. Sullivan

Community members react to a Sayreville Board of Education meeting on Oct. 3 in which school officials discussed the alleged hazing.

According to The Star-Ledger, the Sayreville football program is a "storied" one that has brought home three state championships in the last four years. After Labbe announced the cancelation, parents were apparently "tense and angry."

The players could end up in prison if the allegations are true.

If convicted of aggravated sexual assault as juveniles, the players could face five years in custody, though it could be done in youth facilities, experts say. But if the players are convicted as adults, the same charge carries a 20 year prison sentence. Various lesser charges also carry prison sentences, some as long as 10 years.

Hazing is illegal in New Jersey, and other factors, such as the victims ages, could lead to more severe penalties.

Jim Dalrymple is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Jim Dalrymple II at jim.dalrymple@buzzfeed.com.

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