Two Florida fraternity brothers were convicted of felony hazing Friday in a trial seen as a test of a new law restricting the practice, but jurors were unable to reach a verdict on three other defendants.
The five Kappa Alpha Psi brothers at Florida A&M University, the first people charged under the anti-hazing law, were accused of punching an aspiring member, Marcus Jones, 20, of Decatur, Ga., and beating his buttocks with canes during an initiation, or aiding those who did.
Jurors found former chapter president Michael Morton, 23, and Jason Harris, 23, guilty of breaking a law that makes it a felony to cause “serious bodily injury” through hazing. Circuit Judge Kathleen Dekker declared a mistrial in the cases of three others — Brian Bowman, 23, Cory Gray, 23, and Marcus Hughes, 21.
A mistrial was declared in October when the five were first tried and a jury couldn’t reach a verdict.
Morton was accused of striking Jones on the buttocks, while Harris was accused of facilitating the hazing. The other three defendants were accused of hitting Jones with canes.
“I’m delighted that the state was able to get the two but I would feel better if all five had been convicted because I know deep down inside that they are criminals, too,” said Jones’ father, Army Master Sgt. Mark Jones Jr., who was a member of the same fraternity when he was in college.
His son was not present when the verdict was read. Dekker ordered that Morton and Harris be immediately jailed pending sentencing, but defense lawyers said they will ask that their clients be released pending appeals.
The two face sentences ranging from probation to five years in prison. Dekker set a status hearing for Jan. 22 to receive pre-sentence investigation reports but did not immediately set a sentencing date.
Assistant State Attorney Frank Allman said a decision will be made later on whether to try the other fraternity brothers a third time.
The Florida Legislature passed the law last year in response to the death of Chad Meredith, a University of Miami freshman who drowned in 2001 while trying to swim across a lake with members of a fraternity he hoped to join.