Update: Bergen County Prosecutor Downgrades Charges Against Teaneck High School Students
As a follow-up to an ongoing case involving a senior prank at Teaneck High School which resulted in the arrests of over 60 students, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office recently decided to downgrade the charges against the defendants.
According to Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli, 24 of the defendants, who legally qualify as adults, were initially facing charges for burglary and criminal mischief for allegedly breaking into the high school and vandalizing school property. Robert Carney, Acting Police Chief at the Teaneck Police Department, reported that a mass of students trespassed on school property at approximately 2:00 a.m. on May 1st, at which time they urinated in the school’s hallways, wrote graffiti on the walls, and damaged classroom items including desks and chairs.
Following the recent decision, announced on Wednesday, May 21st, the adult defendants’ cases will not be evaluated by a grand jury, which allows them to avoid potential indictments. As an alternative, the state will now charge them with criminal trespass and criminal mischief, significantly lesser offenses under the law. Molinelli indicated that the defendants are likely to apply for entrance into a diversionary program, such as New Jersey’s Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) Program, in order to resolve their cases.
If the students are accepted into the PTI Program and successfully complete all of the requirements during the probationary period, their charges will be dismissed and they will avoid permanent charges on their criminal records. Ultimately, the presiding judge at Teaneck Municipal Court will make this determination.
As for the students who are facing juvenile delinquency charges, of which there are 39, Molinelli said that all but one of them may receive what is known as a “stationhouse adjustment” to resolve their cases. A “stationhouse adjustment” is essentially an alternative to prosecution which involves mediation between the juvenile, his or her parents or guardians, and law enforcement. Potential penalties including community service, restitution payments to compensate for damage resulting from the alleged offense, a research report, or a letter of apology addressed to the alleged victim (if applicable) may be required as well.
For both the juveniles and adults charged into connection with this incident, the Prosecutor’s announcement comes as extremely positive news. Particularly for the students charged as adults for burglary offenses, which are governed under N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2, they could have been subject to a sentence of between 3 and 5 years in New Jersey State Prison among the adult population if convicted. Clearly, the Pre-Trial Intervention Program represents a highly favorable outcome if achieved.
Felony Charges Downgraded to Disorderly Persons Offenses in Teaneck NJ
For more information pertaining to this case, access the following article: Charges downgraded in Teaneck High School prank that led to 63 arrests