Categories
Hazing News

Not guilty plea — Mepham (update)

Mepham student denies abuse charge

BY MATTHEW CHAYES AND JOHN VALENTI | matthew.chayes@newsday.com; john.valenti@newsday.com
January 17, 2009

A junior at Mepham High School pleaded not guilty Friday to a misdemeanor charge that he inappropriately touched a younger student in a locker room as their team was showering, Nassau County police said.

Antoine Saunders, 18, of Bellmore, was arrested Thursday, Nassau police said. The incident occurred Monday at about 5:45 p.m., police said.

Police say the older student touched the boy, 14, after pushing him into a locker “for the purpose of degrading him” during an after-school activity. Authorities have not released the accuser’s identity.

After pleading not guilty Friday at First District Court in Hempstead to a misdemeanor forcible touching charge, Saunders was ordered released without bail on the condition that he have no contact with the accuser. He is due back in court Feb. 19. Citing privacy, authorities would not say what team the boys play for.

Mepham student charged with forcible touching
Incident happened in boys’ locker room during after-school activity, police say

BY MATTHEW CHAYES | matthew.chayes@newsday.com
3:05 PM EST, January 16, 2009

A junior at Mepham High School pleaded not guilty Friday to a misdemeanor charge that he touched an intimate body part of a younger student as the boys’ team showered and changed clothes in the locker room, Nassau County police said Friday.

Police say the older student touched the 14-year-old victim after pushing him into a locker “for the purpose of degrading him” during an after-school activity, police said.

The arrest comes a little more than five years after the Bellmore school was vaulted into the national spotlight for a hazing incident in which varsity football players sexually abused team underclassmen with broomsticks and pine cones.

In the latest incident, police said there was no evidence of organized hazing and that no objects were used against the victim.

“No instruments, just a hand,” said Det. Lt. John Allen, commanding officer of the police special services squad.

Antoine Saunders, 18, of Little Neck Avenue, Bellmore, was arrested Thursday, Nassau police said. The incident occurred Monday at about 5:45 p.m., police said.

After pleading not guilty at First District Court in Hempstead to a forcible touching charge, Saunders was ordered released without bail on the condition that he have no contact with the accuser. He is due back in court Feb. 19.

“You would not be allowed to be back on that team,” Judge Bonnie P. Chaikin told the suspect.

Saunders, who left court with a worker from the group home where he lives, said nothing to reporters and made an obscene gesture to photographers.

His attorney, Matthew Fleischer of Mineola, told Chaikin that Saunders lives in a group home called Hope for Youth “for family reasons.”

Neither police nor school officials specified what team the accused and the victim play for.

A varsity team football roster located on mephamfootball.com lists a player named Antoine Saunders as a defensive end. The site is not affiliated with the school or the Bellmore-Merrick school district.

Superintendent Henry Kiernan said the district “is working closely with local authorities and their investigation.”

“The Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District has a zero-tolerance policy in regards to inappropriate behavior of any kind and expects all students to adhere to our code of conduct,” Kiernan said in a statement.

Kiernan said district administrators were advised Tuesday of “an incident that occurred on the premises of the school district.”

“Upon being notified the district immediately contacted the local law enforcement agency,” he said.

“The district took appropriate disciplinary action,” Kiernan said. The statement did not specify that action.

The victim has not been identified because he is a victim of a sex crime.

Mepham was cast into the national spotlight in 2003 after three varsity football players were arrested and charged in a brutal hazing incident that occurred during training camp in Preston Park, Pa.

During that five-day training camp, prosecutors and police said that four players used broomsticks, pine cones and golf balls to penetrate at least three freshman football players.

Eventually, the four players were arrested in the attacks. Two of those players served time in juvenile facilities in Pennsylvania and two were sentenced to probation. None returned to a Bellmore-Merrick school. Also, the two head coaches who chaperoned the trip were fired from their football jobs and were suspended from their teaching positions.

Staff writer John Valenti contributed to this story.

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.