3 Montclair High students accused of sexual assault
www.nj.com – Three Montclair High School students have been charged with sexually assaulting a 16-year-old special education student in a township home last week, police said.
The teenagers, who range in age from 16 to 18, compelled the girl to perform a sex act Thursday, police and prosecutors said. Then, they sexually assaulted her with a broomstick, according to the criminal complaint.
“This is a horrible act and certainly a sad day for Montclair,” Police Chief David Sabagh said this afternooon.
The girl also attends Montclair High School. Prosectuors declined to discuss her mental status today but a spokesman for the office said investigators have subpeoned her school records to determine her mental capacity.
Romal Roberts, 18, was arrested Saturday morning at his Hartley Street home, where the alleged assault occurred, police said. He was charged with 18 counts aggravated sexual assault and was being held at the Montclair Police station this afternoon.
Police expected to move Roberts to the Essex County Jail in Newark, where he will be held in lieu of $500,000 bail.
Police did not name the two 16 year olds because they are juveniles. The first was arrested Saturday morning at his home. He is being held at Essex County Youth House in Newark. The second surrendered at the Montclair police station around 3 this afternoon.
Both were charged with the juvenile version of the same 18 counts of aggravated assault Roberts is facing, authorities said.
Police said they are continuing to speak to witnesses who were in the house the afternoon of the alleged assault. The group of Montclair High School students was unsupervised at the house between 11:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on a day when school was let out early for testing, law enforcement officials said.
Local officials acknowledged the case’s similarities the high-profile 1989 rape case in neighboring Glen Ridge. That incident drew national headlines when a 17-year-old mentally disabled girl was raped by several Glen Ridge High School athletes, who used a broomstick and a miniature baseball bat.
The case was eventually turned into a television movie and a book.
“All of us are familiar with the horrific events of the Glen Ridge case,” Essex County Prosecutor Paula Dow said. “It’s too soon to make a strong comparison.”
During today’s press conference, Montclair Township Manager Joseph Hartnett stressed the arrests were made quickly in this case, unlike the Glen Ridge case, where local officials were criticized for moving slowly and protecting the boys accused of rape.
“This is a sad day for Montclair. Our hearts go out to the young lady and her family,” Hartnett said.
This afternoon, two police officers were stationed outside the Hartley Street house where the alleged assault took place. The two-family, cream-colored house is on a corner lot next to a church in a middle class neighborhood off Bloomfield Avenue.
A woman who answered the door said, “Go away please,” before slamming the door.
Mae Coleman, 74, who lives next door said she sees the boys playing football in the streets.
“I know the grandmother who owns the house and she comes home on weekends,” Coleman said.
A Montclair High School junior who did not want to give her name said rumors about the assault were circulating around the high school.
“My 8th period teacher said ‘there’s a rumor going around and no one knows what’s true,’” the girl said.
At a town council meeting this evening, town officials spoke about the case. The previously-scheduled meeting was televised live on local cable television.
Hartnett, the township manager, praised how quickly law enforcement officials made arrests and said the investigation will continue.
“This is still an open case,” Hartnett said.
Read the full story in Wednesday’s Star-Ledger.