Defendants plead not guilty in alleged JSU hazing
by Paige Rentz
prentz@annistonstar.com
Dec 21, 2012 | 6907 views |  0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ten men this week pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from an alleged hazing incident last year involving a Jacksonville State University fraternity. Several more defendants are expected to enter pleas next month.

Although some defendants have been scheduled for trial dates, District Attorney Brian McVeigh said Friday that his office will not move on the cases until all the defendants are arraigned in circuit court.

“We’re still in the process of getting everybody properly served and arraigned,” he said.

A Calhoun County grand jury in October issued the first indictments stemming from a Nov. 26, 2011, hazing incident involving JSU’s chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha. To date, 13 men have been indicted and charged. More indictments have been issued by the grand jury but have not yet been served, according to the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office.

Six of the men who entered pleas this week are scheduled for trial Jan. 28 before Judge Malcolm Street, though he is set to be replaced by newly elected Judge Bud Turner next month. Those men are:

• Mikel Deloch Whittier, 22, of St. Louis, Mo.

• Jeremy Deshaun Potts, 21, of Tallassee

• Justavious Qunitae Johnson, 22, of Jacksonville

• Adeoye Deji Faleti, 23, of Jacksonville

• Rhyan Anthony Swanson, 24, of Jacksonville

• Juston Daniel Patrick, 23, of Jacksonville

Of those six men, three — Patrick, Faleti and Swanson — are charged with first-degree assault and two misdemeanor counts of hazing. Johnson, Potts and Whittier are each charged with one misdemeanor count of hazing.

Four other defendants have had their cases assigned to Judge Brian Howell, but no trial dates have been set. Three of them face felony assault and misdemeanor hazing charges:

• Benjamin Joshua Puckett, 23, of Jacksonville

• Daniel Dwayne Covington, 22, of Fairfield

• Carl Robinson, 22, of Jacksonville

Roosevelt Morgan Jr., 21, of Leeds is charged with one count of hazing.

Three more men were arrested on charges of felony assault and misdemeanor hazing earlier this month and are set to be arraigned Jan. 17:

• Antonio Jarrell Davis, 28, of Montgomery

• Juston Eugene Thomas, 22, of Birmingham

• Brandon Marquell Bush, 23, of Phenix City

Nine of the men pleaded not guilty in court. Robinson submitted a written not guilty plea and waived his right to an arraignment.

McVeigh said Friday that this case is unusual because of the large number of defendants connected to a single series of events.

“This is a lot of folks to deal with so we have to be … meticulous in handling every case,” McVeigh said.

Although the cases will be spread among multiple judges and the defendants treated individually, McVeigh said his office will wait to deal will all of them at once.

“We’re not going to do anything on any case until we have all of them ready,” he said.

Franklin Ball, an attorney representing several of the men, said Friday it was too early to comment on the cases. Attempts to reach Victor Spencer, the attorney of record for other defendants arraigned Thursday, were unsuccessful.

No details of investigations by JSU or the district attorney’s office have been made public. A lawsuit filed by former Alpha Phi Alpha pledge Jason Horton in Calhoun County Circuit Court alleges that the hazing incident lasted for more than four hours. During that time pledges were made to consume large quantities of alcohol, were struck by eggs and other flying objects and beaten for long periods of time with fists and paddles, the suit claims.

JSU’s chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha has since been dismissed from campus. A university official has said that the incident was one of the worst hazing cases the school has seen.

The lawsuit, filed in July, also claims that when Horton vomited blood the next day, active members of the chapter repeatedly discouraged him from seeking medical treatment. When he was taken to a hospital later that night, according to the complaint, he was bleeding internally and his urine was black, his liver was enlarged and his kidneys were functioning at 50 percent. He remained in the hospital for 24 days recovering from his injuries.

Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.

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