Four high school football players in Maryland are facing life in prison for what prosecutors describe as an "astonishingly cruel" assault on four boys. Jean "JC" Abedi, Kristian "KJ" Lee, Will Smith, and Caleb Thorpe, all aged 15 and members of Damascus High School's junior varsity football team, are charged as adults with first-degree rape and attempted rape after allegedly using a broomstick on four 14-year-olds on Oct. 31, per Fox News and the Washington Post. One victim said Abedi and Lee were laughing as they held him down in a locker room after the lights went out, ABC News reports via court documents. The teens allegedly raped the boy with the broomstick before moving on to other teammates, one of whom was punched and "stomped on," court documents state.
When another victim told the suspects to stop, Smith allegedly claimed the assault was "tradition," per ABC. Defense lawyer Daniel Wright has since called it "a hazing incident that went to an extreme." But "it's not hazing. These are crimes," prosecutor John McCarthy said at a Monday press conference, adding authorities were investigating whether "this happened in prior years." Court documents note Lee, Smith, and Thorpe admitted involvement in the attack, reported after the father of one of the victims found his son crying in his room, per Newsweek. All four have been released on $20,000 bond. A fifth, unnamed teenager, described in court documents as both a victim and a suspect, is charged with second-degree rape as a juvenile, per Fox News. (This follows a similar incident at a Toronto school.)