The Leon County Sheriff’s Office arrested five Florida A&M students Monday in connection with the hazing of another FAMU student in late February.
The five students, who are all members of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc.: Michael Morton, Brian Bowman, Marcus Hughes, Cory Gray and Jason Harris were charged with the alleged hazing of Marcus Jones, a 20-year-old sophomore environmental science student from Decatur, Ga.
According to his father Mark Jones, Marcus was beaten with canes while pledging Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, which resulted in injuries that required surgery.
Hazing in the state of Florida is a third degree felony. The maximum sentence if convicted is five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
According to the Florida Statutes article 1006.63 Section 2, “A person commits hazing, a third degree felony, when he or she intentionally or recklessly commits any act of hazing as defined in subsection upon another person who is a member of or an applicant to any type of student organization, hazing and the hazing results in serious bodily injury or death of such other person.”
The statute states that the victim giving consent is not a defense for hazing.
The five men arrested were in charge of what the fraternity calls the initiates.
Michael Morton, 23, a business student and former FAMU senate president, was the leader of the five, explained Detective Brice Google, the lead detective in the investigation.
Brian Bowman is a marketing and psychology student from East Oakland, Calif.
Marcus Hughes is a 20-year-old education administration student from Fort Lauderdale.
Cory Gray is a 22-year-old economics and business administration student from Montgomery, Ala., and the current president of the National Pan-Hellenic council on FAMU’s campus.
Jason Harris is a 25-year-old pharmacy and business administration student from Tallahassee.
Google said the men were arrested based on the interviews conducted and the evidence that was consistent with the definition of hazing as defined in the Florida statute.
The Leon County Sheriff’s Office, along with the FAMU Police Department, held a press conference Tuesday morning announcing the five arrests. This was an attempt to show a united front against hazing, Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell said.
“We want these young men to know that this is not a game that is being played,” Campbell added.
The students were immediately suspended from the university once charges were filed pending the outcome of the criminal hearing, FAMU Chief of Police Calvin Ross said.
The FAMU student handbook, Article VI, Student Conduct and Discipline Codes 100.00, states that, “The university reserves the right by the authority vested in the President to expel any student who is convicted of a criminal offense of a kind which interferes with the educational or orderly operation of the University… pending a hearing at a later date if requested by the student.”
The university can still find the students guilty of breaking the university’s sanctions even if the court finds them innocent.
Another possible punishment is loss of financial aid according to the student handbook: “The university reserves the right to deny financial aid to any student whose conduct reveals that he is not willing to assume his responsibility for observing the federal laws, the laws of the state of Florida.”
FAMU Chief of Police Calvin Ross said, “We look at these kids academically and we see bright kids that made stupid decisions.”
There were 26 people subpoenaed and there are more arrests anticipated. During the press conference the sheriff’s office informed the public that as the case develops they plan to go back and pursue perjury charges if they find it necessary. The students have retained council and have chosen not to comment.
“It is our position that the threshold for probable cause is very low,” said Bill Waters, attorney for Waters & Wolk and legal council for all five students.
“The truth will come out that these five gentlemen were wrongly accused,” Waters said, adding that his clients were not interviewed and that their side of the story has not been heard.
Google spoke with the victim’s father before the press conference.
“He is pleased with the outcome thus far. He expresses his appreciation for the FAMU Police Department and the Leon County Sheriff’s Office,” Google said. “His son is still recovering, but he is not out of the woods just yet. He is going to have to have another surgery. He still has a ruptured ear drum that has to be repaired.”
The regional director for Kappa Alpha Psi was unavailable for comment.
Contact Nicole Bardo-Colon at firstname.lastname@example.org