TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Witnesses told police that two Florida A&M University faculty members were present as band fraternity pledges were hazed at the home of one of the professors in early 2010, according to an investigative report released Wednesday.
Authorities said no charges will be filed because investigators cannot prove the Kappa Kappa Psi hazing happened within a two-year statute of limitations. The case has been closed.
The allegations also are under administrative and legal review by the university, which “will take appropriate action against faculty members or students, up to and including dismissals,” Florida A&M President James Ammons said in a brief statement. He called the allegations “extremely disturbing.”
The Tallahassee Police Department report says band director Julian White told campus police about the allegations on Nov. 21 after another faculty member brought them to his attention.
That was two days after the hazing death of FAMU drum major Robert Champion while the March 100 band was in Orlando for a football game. Champion suffered from blunt trauma while aboard a band bus and died from shock due to severe internal bleeding. His death is being investigated as a homicide. No arrests have been made.
Champion’s death was just one in a series of hazing events involving the FAMU band.
Witnesses to the 2010 incident told police that fraternity members repeatedly slapped pledges on the back or neck, known as “prepping” and “necking.” One pledge, whose identity was not disclosed in the report, told police his buttocks were bruised because he also was paddled with a thick piece of wood.
Officer Shane Porter lists Diron Holloway, the band’s director of saxophones, and Anthony Simons, an assistant professor of music, as suspects in his report.
“Through investigation it was determined hazing did occur at faculty member Diron Holloway’s residence,” Porter wrote.
The anonymous victim told Porter that about 14 pledges, several fraternity members and the two professors ate a spaghetti dinner at Holloway’s home before the hazing began. He said Holloway joined in the prepping and necking.
Asked if he participated in prepping, Holloway told an investigator: “It’s possible to say that I did do something under the circumstances of all of them coming in at once, maybe I did do something.”
Holloway did not immediately respond to a telephone message and email seeking comment Wednesday. Simons declined comment when reached at his office. He also declined to speak with police and hired a lawyer, the report says.
Holloway denied participating in padding and told police it may have happened “outside or in some garage area.”
Asked why he didn’t stop it, Holloway said he did but added: “I should have said ‘Enough of that, the party is over.’”
State Attorney Willie Meggs’ office declined to prosecute because of uncertainty by the witnesses over when the hazing happened. There’s only a two-year statute of limitations for misdemeanor hazing. It’s three years for felony hazing, but that requires proof of great bodily harm, which wasn’t present in this case.
Porter blamed the statute of limitations problem on the lengthy delay in getting the investigation started. Tallahassee police found out about it only through media reports on Jan. 20, two months after White had notified campus police. A FAMU police report indicates the matter was referred to city police because the alleged hazing occurred off campus, but Porter wrote that he could find no record of the case being forwarded.
White initially was fired after Champion’s death, but he later was reinstated and placed on administrative leave. White has maintained that he tried to crack down on hazing including suspensions of band members and repeatedly told his superiors about it.
The report says White reported the 2010 incident after another faculty member said one of his students told him of being paddled as part of the his fraternity initiation.
Porter wrote that he met with the student who was willing to talk about what happened but wanted to remain anonymous and didn’t want anyone prosecuted.
Other pledges, some now officers of the fraternity’s FAMU chapter, were reluctant to cooperate until they received subpoenas.
Henry Nesbitt then told investigators that neither Simons nor Holloway put a hand on him but that a band member once hit him with a mallet at practice. Zachary Walker told officers he only got necked a couple times at Holloway’s home by members of the band’s woodwind section as punishment for failing to correctly recite information he was supposed to memorize. Nesbitt declined comment Wednesday. There was no answer at Walker’s phone number.
As a result of Champion’s death, Florida A&M has suspended the band, canceled a summer band camp and stopped students from joining campus groups during the spring and summer semesters. The university also is offering research grants on hazing and has formed a fact-finding committee of national experts to look into the problem.
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