With three guilty pleas entered Monday, the Calhoun County District Attorney’s Office resolved all criminal cases stemming from a 2011 hazing incident involving a Jacksonville State University fraternity.
The three pleas entered Monday brought to at least 15 the number of men pleading guilty in connection with a November 2011 off-campus incident involving the JSU chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. In May, a total of 12 defendants pleaded guilty, prosecutors said.
Of the defendants, 11 pleaded to reckless endangerment, a class A misdemeanor. Pleading guilty to that charge Monday, according to prosecutors, were:
⬝ Jeremiah Antwon Bradford, 24, of Harpersville
⬝ Antonio Davis, 28, of Montgomery
⬝ Benjamin Puckett, 23, of Jacksonville
On May 30, eight of the defendants pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment in the case. They include:
⬝ Brandon Marquell Bush, 23, of Phenix City
⬝ Fidel M. Corfah, 23, of Lawrenceville, Ga.
⬝ Daniel Dwayne Covington, 23, of Fairfield
⬝ Juston Patrick Daniel, 23, of Jacksonville
⬝ Quintin Deandrae Day, 27, of Anniston
⬝ Jacolby Quantel Parks, 24, of Atlanta
⬝ Carl Robinson, 22, of Jacksonville
⬝ Rhyan Anthony Swanson, 24, of Jacksonville.
Those 11 men were initially charged with first-degree assault, a felony, and two misdemeanor counts of hazing, one for committing the act and one for failing to report it, according to Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Weems. The charge of reckless endangerment, Weems said, applies when defendants “engage in conduct which creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury to another person.”
Weems said the men have all been sentenced to 365 days in jail, but their probation hearings will be delayed until May 21, 2014.
In the interim, she said, the defendants must comply with a number of requirements in order for the district attorney to officially recommend two years of probation instead of jail time. Weems said these conditions include having no contact with the victim or his immediate family, performing community service, paying court costs and fines, providing a statement regarding the parties and crimes involved in these cases, and cooperating with her office in the prosecution of any additional cases related to the incident that may be brought in the future.
“We collected a lot of statements in a short amount of time,” Weems said of the last requirement. “We have to make a determination as to whether additional people will be charged.”
If any of the defendants fail to comply with the requirements, Weems said, her office will request an immediate probation hearing, and the victim will have the opportunity to oppose probation if he chooses. In that instance, a judge would determine whether the men would receive supervised probation or serve a year in jail.
“Having worked with the defendants and their attorneys, I have an expectation of compliance at this point,” Weems said.
The district attorney’s office on May 21 announced plea agreements with four other defendants: Justavious Quintae Johnson, 22, of Jacksonville; Juston Thomas, 23, of Birmingham; Mikel Whittier, 23, of St. Louis, and Varian May, 28, of Oxford.
Like the other 11 men, May was initially charged with first-degree assault and two counts of hazing. He pleaded guilty to one count of hazing, and if he complies with the terms of the agreement, prosecutors will recommend a sentence of two years of probation, Weems said. If he fails to comply, she said, he could face 90 days imprisonment or probation, the length of which would be determined by a judge.
Johnson, Thomas and Whittier — who were being initiated into the fraternity during the incident — were each initially charged with one count of hazing, a misdemeanor. If they comply with the terms of the agreement, according to Weems, the cases effectively will be dismissed, and the pleas will not appear on their records.
Three other men were indicted in relation to the incident but were not among the 15 resolved cases released by the district attorney’s office Monday.
Two men — Morgan Roosevelt Jr., 21, of Leeds, and Jeremy Potts, 21, of Tallassee — were each charged with a single count of hazing. Adeoye Faleti, 23, of Jacksonville, was charged with one count of first-degree assault, a felony, and two counts of misdemeanor hazing. Asked about those three men, Weems said she could not comment on the remaining cases due to the ages of the defendants, evidence provided during the investigation, and/or immunity agreements offered to those who originally cooperated in the case. Weems said 20 people were involved in the initial investigation of the hazing incident.
In a civil suit filed last year against Alpha Phi Alpha and its representatives, victim Jason Horton alleged that pledges were made to drink vodka and mustard, struck with eggs and flying objects, and were beaten repeatedly with fists and paddles. The next morning, according to the court document, Horton vomited all day and was discouraged by fraternity members from seeking medical treatment.
Last month, Circuit Judge Debra Jones ruled that the civil case be handled outside of court through mediation as part of a binding arbitration process.
The Xi Xi chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha has since been dismissed from JSU’s campus.
Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.