JROTC teens who branded student with iron released from jail early

Two Queens Junior ROTC cadets who branded a fellow student’s butt with a clothes iron — in what one called “a tradition” — have been sprung from jail early and are going to college, The Post has learned.

The two former Francis Lewis High School students, who pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and hazing, were sentenced in June to serve two years at the New Jersey Training School for juvenile offenders.

But they spent less than four months in the lockup for scorching the younger cadet’s buttocks in a Westampton, N.J., hotel room during a competition at Fort Dix.

“I do feel sorry for what I did,” one of the teens, William Vera, told The Post.

But he added, “It’s a tradition. It happened, and it happened between everybody.”

Vera, who is now on probation, denied his punishment was a slap on the wrist.

“If they knew the experience of being in jail, they wouldn’t say that,” he said. “It affected me in every way. It affected me losing my friends and a lot of people who were there for me.”

The other student, Robert Lian, posted a rant on Facebook about “what happened” among the since-suspended Raiders, an athletic squad in the Francis Lewis ROTC program, one of the country’s largest.

“You don’t know half the things we went through to be a team. We suffered, we trained, we strove for the best. We were a family,” Lian wrote.

In the April 2018 hazing, the 15-year-old victim was forced to lay on his stomach while an older cadet pressed a hot iron into his naked butt, badly burning him, while he begged for the torture to stop.

Michael Kutner, a lawyer for the victim and his parents, who have sued the city and JROTC teachers who chaperoned the trip, expressed their disappointment.

“Given the severity of this event, the parents obviously expected that the sentences would be served in their entirety, Their son is still suffering,” Kutner said.

The Special Commissioner of Investigation for city schools, Anastasia Coleman,  found no wrongdoing by the teachers who chaperoned the trip. Coleman declined to comment on the probe.

Three JROTC teachers,  Col. Albert LaHood, Christopher Dash and Shirley Madison,  have filed lawsuits in Manhattan Supreme Court demanding that the  Department of Education pay for their legal defense.

A Francis Lewis teacher who was not involved defended the JROTC leaders, saying, “There are no more honest or hard-working people. They would never tolerate or condone this atrocity.”

DOE regulations do not specify how students must be supervised on overnight trips. Francis Lewis now requires one staff member to monitor the hallways overnight, said DOE spokeswoman Miranda Barbot.

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