Criminal charges were dropped against all four members of the Marching 100 who were arrested for misdemeanor hazing in October.
The State Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute James Wheeler, 21, Dontay Douglas, 21, Kenneth Sparks, 20, and Kristoffer Busby, 21, because there was no probable cause. “(State Attorney William N.) Meggs told the FAMU assistant chief that after examining the cases, he believed that there was not sufficient probable cause to arrest the defendants for the charges,” according to documents from the State Attorney’s office.
“Regardless, the FAMU (Police Department) brought the warrants on these cases to Assistant State Attorney Owen McCaul, who declined to approve the warrants,” the documents stated.
The documents showed that the Florida A&M University officer brought the warrants again to the assistant state attorney, “having added no additional facts to support arrests.”
The assistant state attorney who reviewed the warrants the second time was not familiar with the case. However, that attorney, who was not named in the document, approved the warrants.
“There remains no probable cause for arrest on any of these cases,” the documents stated.
FAMU PD contacted him after they had conducted an investigation, Meggs said. “They told us what they had, and we basically told them that what they had did not meet the hazing statute.”
The Florida Statute Chapter 1006.63, Section 3 states, “A person commits hazing, a first degree misdemeanor, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083, when he or she intentionally or recklessly commits any act of hazing as defined in subsection (1) upon another person who is a member of or an applicant to any type of student organization and the hazing creates a substantial risk of physical injury or death to such other person.”
Meggs said the conduct has to expose a person to serious injury, and the case involving the four band members did not fall under the statute of hazing.
“It could have fallen under the battery statute because they were hit on the behind with paddles,” Meggs said. “But if you consent to being hit on the behind by a paddle, it’s not battery. As far as we are concerned, the criminal investigation is closed.”
“It will not be going to the criminal case,” FAMU PD Lt. Angela Kirkland said. “However, it will be going to the judicial arena here on campus.”
Kirkland said there was an administrative hearing Thursday and the hearing is ongoing.
Wheeler, 21, a fourth-year business administration student from Atlanta, said he is under a judicial hold in his classes.”It is affecting my financial aid. I just got an eviction notice,” he said.
Wheeler said he was publicly humiliated.
“I’m learning how the justice system works. I learned in school that it is innocent until proven guilty, but now I know it’s guilty until proven innocent,” Wheeler said. “FAMU PD got these warrants that were not approved, and because of that, me and my colleagues got arrested.”
Sparks and Douglas declined to comment, and Busby was unavailable to comment.