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Four 15-year-old sophomore high school football players are charged with taking part in the rape and attempted rape of four of their freshman teammates in a locker room of Damascus High School in Maryland, just outside Washington D.C.

A suspect said they were continuing a “tradition” of hazing “started from generations ago.”

The alleged attacks took place before junior varsity football practice on Halloween. The  incident was reported to the police by the principal on November 1. Now the football players could face decades in prison if convicted of first-degree rape, attempted first-degree rape, and conspiracy to commit first-degree rape.

The football players will be tried as adults for allegedly restraining and sexually assaulting some of the boys with a broomstick. A fifth teammate identified as a victim but is also accused of taking part in an assault and will be tried as a juvenile.

Victims described the broomstick as a wooden handle with a “cut on the tip of it.” One victim report being stabbed on the buttocks after being held down. He claimed the attackers laughed as he shouted, “Let me go!”

Another victim described being sexually assaulted. When he asked the attackers to stop they told him it was “tradition.” Two of the victims said they were able to fight off the assailants before they “got the broom,” according to NBC News.

Authorities are now investigating how many other similar incidents may have taken place over the years without being reported. This time, the incident was reported after a father found his son sobbing in his room the night of the incident, according to Fox 5 DC.

“Will we look at the potential that this has happened in prior years? Absolutely, yes,” said Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy.

McCarthy objected to calling it a hazing.

“I’m offended by the term hazing. It’s not hazing, these are crimes, and I would caution anyone to refer to this as hazing. These boys were victims of criminal acts,” McCarthy said. “They were not victims of hazing, they were victims of first-degree rapes.”

An attorney for one of the defendants claims his client is innocent, yet seemed to point out that other such attacks were probable. Attorney David Felsen said:

“I think the short answer is there is information out there that this has happened on other occasions in other years.”

Felsen is fighting to have the 15-year-olds tried as juveniles.

“These are 15 year old kids, and that, all of that has to be kept in mind,” he said.

Another Defense attorney, Daniel Wright, downplayed the incident as “a hazing incident that went to an extreme.” School district officials have similarly referred to what happened as “hazing, bullying, or harassment.”

However, an arrest document described a violent and brutal attack.

“‘Victim C said after they finished with him, they proceeded to Victim A where they pulled Victim A’s sweatshirt over the top of his head, punched him in the face, knocked him on his back and stomped on him,’ investigators said.”

Prosecutor John McCarthy rejected the idea that the incidents were a “hazing” saying, “these are crimes.” Prosecutors called the defendant’s behavior, “astonishingly cruel.”

The defendants have been released on bond and await trial.

See more in the video from CBS This Morning below:


Featured image: Screenshot via YouTube