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News Clips 03/22/2013
Investigation into alleged FAMU sorority hazing ends with no charges filed
Source: Tallahassee Democrat, 03/21/13
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By Jeff Burlew
A Leon County Sheriff’s Office investigation into alleged hazing at an off-campus Florida A&M University sorority gathering has ended with no charges filed.
Nine students affiliated with Delta Sigma Theta sorority were suspended following the incident in February, which was reported to the university through its StopHazingAtFAMU.com website.
The anonymous report stated that pledges were forced to do exercise squats and memorize information about sorority members during the gathering, which occurred from 8 p.m. Feb. 5 to 6 a.m. Feb. 6; investigators learned the incident happened at a residence on Esplanade Way.
The person who reported the incident also said one of the pledges lost consciousness around 5:35 a.m. because of a heart murmur, according to LCSO records. Investigators found out that the Tallahassee Police Department received a medical-emergency call from the residence on the night in question and that a woman was taken by ambulance to the hospital.
However, when the woman was interviewed, she denied being hazed. She confirmed with FAMU and LCSO investigators that she has a heart murmur, telling them she “faints sometimes for no reason.”
Over the course of the investigation, 22 witnesses were interviewed. And while some of them gave conflicting reports – including who was there and who wasn’t – they all denied that anyone was hazed or forced to exercise, according to LCSO reports.
The Sheriff’s Office concluded that the actions of Delta members did not violate Florida’s hazing statutes. Investigators did, however, contact the State Attorney's Office about filing possible perjury charges in the case. But prosecutors declined because the underlying hazing allegations weren’t substantiated.
“The perjury would be for lying about a crime,” said Georgia Cappleman, chief assistant state attorney for the 2nd Judicial Circuit. “And if we don’t find that there’s a crime, then it’s difficult to prove the perjury.”
Among the Delta members who were interviewed was Marissa West, former president of the Student Government Association and former member of the FAMU Board of Trustees. West denied being at the gathering and said she was not aware of any member of Delta hazing any pledges, according to LCSO reports.
The status of the nine FAMU students who were suspended over the incident was not immediately clear. FAMU spokeswoman Sharon Saunders did not return phone calls.
The university has implemented a number of anti-hazing measures, including the website, since the November 2011 hazing death of FAMU Marching 100 drum major Robert Champion. Earlier this month, prosecutors in Orlando upgraded charges against 12 former FAMU band members to manslaughter.