Four football players from Damascus High School in Damascus, Maryland, have been charged with first-degree rape after allegedly sexually assaulting younger teammates with broomsticks in a hazing incident last month.
The accused players ― all 15 years old ― allegedly held down and assaulted four freshmen on the junior varsity football team ― all 14 years old ― before a practice on Halloween, Washington, D.C., news station WTOP reported. According to the police report, the upperclassmen turned off the lights in the locker room and attacked the younger boys by pulling down their pants and assaulting or attempting to assault them with the broomsticks. The 15-year-olds are accused of laughing throughout the incident.
“Each defendant played a significant role in carrying out their plan to sexually assault the victims in this case,” Montgomery Deputy State Attorney Peter Feeney said, according to The Washington Post. “Whether it was pushing, punching, stomping, holding down, tackling or wielding the broom. The crimes could only have been committed with the active participation of each defendant.”
One of the victims was sodomized while the other three were able to fight off the attackers. When one of the victims attempted to get away, his attacker told him it was a “tradition,” NBC News reported.
The Damascus High School principal reported the alleged assaults to police the next day, and the four boys were arrested Nov. 21. All four were held in the Montgomery County jail until they were released Monday on a $20,000 bond. Each player was charged with three counts of attempted rape, one count of conspiracy to commit rape and one count of first-degree rape. In the state of Maryland, a first-degree rape charge carries a maximum punishment of life in prison.
Feeney described the assaults as an “astonishingly cruel and violent rape” and is charging all four boys as adults.
The four players have all been publicly identified in court documents, but HuffPost is not naming them because they are minors. A fifth boy, who has not been publicly identified, has been charged as a juvenile for allegedly participating in one of the attacks.
During Monday’s court hearing, Daniel Wright, an attorney for one of the accused, attempted to write off the situation as a hazing incident.
“Peer pressure and group psychology take over, and young people do things they wouldn’t normally do,” he said. “This is a hazing incident that went to an extreme.”
Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said in a news conference later that day that he was “offended by the term ‘hazing.’”
“It’s not hazing. These are crimes, and I would caution anyone to refer to this as hazing,” he said. “They were not victims of hazing. They were victims of first-degree rapes.”
David Felsen, an attorney representing one of the accused, wants the case to be tried in juvenile court, telling CBS News: “Being told you face charges where you could go to jail for the rest of your life is pretty darn intimidating.”
Jack Smith, superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools, commented on the charges in a statement last week, saying: “MCPS continues to fully cooperate with the police investigation and will continue to provide support and resources for the Damascus High School community. Our thoughts are with the students, staff and all who have been affected.”