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New Jersey trio who assaulted retarded girl imprisoned

Defendants

Friends watch football players' 1989 attack

June 30, 1997
Web posted at: 6:40 p.m. EDT (2240 GMT)

In this story:

From Correspondent Jonathan Karl

GLEN RIDGE, New Jersey (CNN) -- Three young men convicted of sexually assaulting a mentally retarded 17-year-old girl in 1989 were sentenced to lengthy terms in a youth correctional center Monday.

Two of the three, Christopher Archer and Kevin Scherzer, were ordered to serve 15-year terms. Kyle Scherzer, Kevin's twin brother, was sentenced to serve seven years.

Superior Court Judge Benjamin Cohen rejected a request to let the trio, now in their mid-20s, stay free on bail pending appeal. "This [has] gone on too long. Enough is enough," the judge said.

The former Glen Ridge High School football players were convicted in 1993 of sexually assaulting the girl with a broom handle and baseball bat in front of as many as 10 of their friends. They were all in high school at the time.

Defendants have remained free since convictions

Archer and Kevin Scherzer were convicted of aggravated sexual assault on a mentally defective person and aggravated assault by force or coercion. Kyle Scherzer was convicted of aggravated assault by force or coercion and attempted aggravated sexual assault.

However, none of the three has served any time on their original 15-year sentences for the crimes. They appealed the verdict and have been out on bail during the appeals process.

Last month, a state appeals court struck down the convictions related to using force or coercion, saying the girl complied with the sexual acts. The court upheld the rest of the charges, and a resentencing hearing on those convictions was held Monday.

Prosecutor: Predatory behavior must be deterred

Attorneys for Archer and the Scherzers asked for leniency. But prosecutor Robert Laurino argued for a prison sentence, saying, "by deterring this type of predatory behavior, we are telling the developmentally disabled 'You are valued, you have worth.'"

Addressing the court, Archer told Cohen, "I am sincerely and truly sorry." He told the judge that he had used poor judgment and made a "bad mistake."

Kevin Scherzer did not address the court, but his attorney described him as "an all-American boy" who had no prior record of any kind. Kyle Scherzer's attorney said that he should not be sentenced to prison, because he had been convicted of a less serious offense.

The victim, now 25, lives with her parents. Laurino said her parents are "not crusaders but average citizens seeking justice for their daughter." The family was not in court.

Book blames school's culture for attack

Glen Ridge High School

At the time of the crime, the brazenness of the attack shocked the nation. A new book, "Our Guys" by author Bernard Lefkowitz, suggests that the culture of Glen Ridge High School may be partially to blame for the attack.

"The tragedy about it is that athletics and character were so divorced in Glen Ridge. If good character, or even decent character, [or] civilized behavior had been made a precondition for being on a football team, or a baseball team, maybe these guys' behavior would have changed," Lefkowitz said.

But athletes and administrators at the school today disagree. "Sports didn't bring out the animals in these kids. It's just their sick minds that made them want to do this," said Paul McCarthy, a football player in the class of 1997.

Superintendent of Schools Judy Conk said the school has "moved on" from the assault. "We are very proud of our students and our school system," she said.

Even other students say that today's athletes are not like those who participated in or witnessed the attack nearly a decade ago. "They are not the same way the other guys were. They're good guys," said one young woman at the school.

Correspondent Jonathan Karl contributed to this report.

 
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