First major test of Florida anti-hazing law goes to court; 5 frat brothers accused of abuse

Wednesday, September 27th 2006, 10:11 pm
By: News On 6

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- In the first major courtroom test of the state's anti-hazing law, a prosecutor Wednesday described for jurors how an aspiring Florida A&M University fraternity member was pummeled with boxing gloves so hard he briefly lost his hearing.

But defense attorneys for the five fraternity brothers accused in the case claim the student was not seriously hurt.

"They beat Marcus Jones with canes so severely he needed surgery to remove a blood clot from his buttocks and also they punched him wearing boxing gloves to the point he temporarily lost hearing," prosecutor Frank Allman said in his opening statement.

The case is the first significant challenge for one of the nation's toughest anti-hazing laws. The law makes hazing a felony, with punishments of probation up to five years in prison if it results in serious bodily injury or death.

Forty-four states have anti-hazing laws, but experts say Florida is one of the few that has made it a serious criminal offense. The law was inspired by the 2001 death of an 18-year-old during rush week at the University of Miami.

The defense said Jones suffered no broken bones or muscular injuries, his ear drum has healed and he had no permanent hearing loss. They also disputed Allman's characterization of the buttocks injury as a blood clot and said the surgery involved removing a small patch of dead skin.

Defense lawyers said the doctors who treated Jones, 19, of Decatur, Ga., will testify the injuries were "not that bad."

The defense lawyers also questioned how Jones could identify who was beating him while he was blindfolded or in the dark at an abandoned warehouse.

At one point the fraternity candidates were allowed to remove the blindfolds and Jones was able to identify the defendants through their nicknames such as "Daddy Swagger" and "Daddy Young Buck," Allman said.

The defendants are: Brian Bowman, 23; Cory Gray, 22; Jason Harris, 25; Marcus Hughes, 21, and Michael Morton, 23.

The school suspended the five students pending the outcome of the case and suspended the Kappa Alpha Psi chapter until 2013.