Attorney General’s office says no charges ‘at this time’ for North Smithfield football players

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NORTH SMITHFIELD – After interviews with more than 30 adults and children, the office of Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha said there is no basis at this time to bring any charges related to allegations of hazing against members of the North Smithfield High School football team.

The office did add that some of the behavior reported by witnesses was inappropriate.

The team was allowed to resume practices Monday after a two month suspension of all activity following what Supt. Michael St. Jean described at the time as an allegation of a, “serious,” incident of hazing.

North Smithfield police have since conducted an extensive investigation, reportedly interviewing more than 30 adults and children.

“No football team member or prospective member reported being subjected at any time to physical contact that they characterized as inappropriate or criminal in nature,” the Attorney General’s office said in a statement.

“No football team member or prospective member or parent has requested that this Office or the North Smithfield Police Department bring criminal charges against anyone,” the statement continued. “No adults that were interviewed, including football team coaches, witnessed physical contact among football team members or prospective members that could be characterized as inappropriate or criminal in nature.”

Police have, however, received, “credible reports” that older football players engaged in physical contact with younger players viewed as, “highly inappropriate.”

“This conduct included older team members holding younger team members and/or prospective team members down and making apparent physical contact with them, including in the buttocks and other sensitive areas,” the statement said.

“Whether this plainly inappropriate conduct rises to the level of criminal misconduct, and whether criminal charges are possible if it does, remains undetermined at this time given the unwillingness to date of any team member or prospective member to come forward to describe precisely the physical contact that they were subjected to and make a criminal complaint to police or to this office,” the statement said.

The office stated that the investigation remains open and ongoing, and encouraged any additional potential witnesses to come forward to police or the attorney general’s office.

The complete statement, as read at the School Committee meeting on Tuesday, August 16, can be found below.

Office of the Attorney General Statement on investigation into alleged hazing at North Smithfield High School

August 16, 2022

On June 21, 2022 this office was advised by the North Smithfield School Department that it had received information alleging that during North Smithfield High School football activities in the spring of 2022 older football team members had engaged in hazing activities involving younger team members and/or prospective members when no adults were present. Immediately thereafter, this office and the North Smithfield Police Department began an investigation of these allegations.

During this investigation, North Smithfield police interviewed or attempted to interview all individuals – adults and children – who may have witnessed or been the subject of these allegations. After consent was obtained from their parents, many football team members and prospective members agreed to be interviewed by police, and the substance of those interviews was shared and discussed with prosecutors from this office.

Other parents of football team members or prospective team members did not consent to interviews of their children. Over 30 adults and children were interviewed by the police. No football team member or prospective member reported being subjected at any time to physical contact that they characterized as inappropriate or criminal in nature. No football team member or prospective member or parent has requested that this office or the North Smithfield Police Department bring criminal charges against anyone. No adults that were interviewed including football team coaches witnessed physical contact among football team members or prospective team members that could be characterized as inappropriate or criminal in nature.

Not withstanding the foregoing, the investigation to date leaves this office concerned with the safety of football team members and, during the off-season, prospective team members, when no adults are present during team activities. Multiple witnesses have reported credibly that there were times during or immediately before or after football team activities in the spring of 2022 when no adults were present.

Furthermore, several individuals have separately and credibly reported to police that they witnessed older football team members engage in physical contact with younger team members or prospective team members that in the view of this office was highly inappropriate at a minimum. This conduct included older team members holding younger team members and/or prospective team members down and making apparent physical contact with them including in the buttocks and other sensitive areas.

Whether this plainly inappropriate conduct rises to the level of criminal misconduct, and whether criminal charges are possible if it does, remains undetermined at this time due to the unwillingness of any team member or prospective member to come forward to describe precisely the physical contact that they were subjected to, and make a criminal complaint to police or to this office.

This office understands how difficult it can be for any person, particularly a child, to come forward and speak to police and prosecutors under these circumstances.

We continue to encourage anyone with knowledge of this matter to contact the North Smithfield Police Department or this office. Accordingly, the investigation of this serious matter remains open and continues. This office and the North Smithfield Police Department will keep the North Smithfield community updated as appropriate.

The attorney general is grateful to the North Smithfield School Department for their prompt and appropriate attention to this matter and immediate notification of this office upon learning of the allegations involved.

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9 COMMENTS

  1. Actually Sylvia is right though, and it must make you so mad. You think all those kids are guilty? Where’s your proof? Innocent until proven guilty, or the other way around? Even if it was the parents who made the complaint on behalf of the student, they should have known that an actual complainant is required in order to file formal charges. If they weren’t ready for that, then they shouldn’t have even bother to make a complaint. It’s basic simple law you don’t need a degree to know that.

  2. Keep in mind the alleged witnesses never came forward but the 30 kids and coaches were not credible but the off the record ones are. SMH. People read between the lines. The superintendent and the AG sound very upset at this outcome. They wanted this to be true. That statement was one that we probably never will see again. We have no proof but it’s our opinion. Ohh boy the opinion of a politician

  3. It doesn’t sound like the claims were unsubstantiated:

    “several individuals have separately and credibly reported to police that they witnessed older football team members engage in physical contact with younger team members or prospective team members that in the view of this office was highly inappropriate at a minimum. This conduct included older team members holding younger team members and/or prospective team members down and making apparent physical contact with them including in the buttocks and other sensitive areas.”

  4. so it sounds like something inappropriate happened and that the victims have decided not to come forward with details needed to charge those responsible. so to all of you that claimed innocence, you may want to pump the brakes. just because there are no official charges, does not mean these accusations were false. my guess is the parents notified officials but the victim was not comfortable coming forward.

    • It does not matter if “something inappropriate” happened. What matters, particularly since the District got the police and the Attorney General involved, is if a crime was committed. Given that there is no complainant, and there are no witnesses, there is no basis upon which to charge anyone with anything. It is authentically terrifying that an entire group of students was targeted and shamed as if they had committed a crime, was then collectively punished by the district, and was investigated by the police for an unsubstantiated claim of ‘inappropriateness’. This is not how the justice system works and it shouldn’t be how our town works.

      • wow. so if you are a parent this doesn’t concern you, “Furthermore, several individuals have separately and credibly reported to police that they witnessed older football team members engage in physical contact with younger team members or prospective team members that in the view of this office was highly inappropriate at a minimum. This conduct included older team members holding younger team members and/or prospective team members down and making apparent physical contact with them including in the buttocks and other sensitive areas.” I hope you are not a parent because if this was one of my children it would matter. a lot of people commenting on social media about this case seem to be more concerned with reputations of those implicated and not the potential victims and how it will change the rest of their life.

        • Caring more about the reputations of these boys is how you end up with another Brock Turner. Sylvia is probably one of those people who cares more about reputations.

          • Actually Sylvia is right though, and it must make you so mad. You think all those kids are guilty? Where’s your proof? Innocent until proven guilty, or the other way around? Even if it was the parents who made the complaint on behalf of the student, they should have known that an actual complainant is required in order to file formal charges. If they weren’t ready for that, then they shouldn’t have even bother to make a complaint. It’s basic simple law you don’t need a degree to know that.

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