NEW: The misdemeanor charges are punishable by up to one year in prison
Nine men, ages 21 to 26, are charged with hazing, a court document shows
They are accused of "striking" Alpha Phi Alpha pledges with paddles and their hands
The University of Florida and national fraternity have acted against the chapter
Nine men have been charged with hazing for their alleged part in an initiation rite into a University of Florida fraternity earlier this year.
The defendants, between the ages of 21 and 26, are accused of “endangering the mental or physical health or safety” of five pledges to the Alpha Phi Alpha chapter, according to documents filed this week in Florida’s 8th Judicial Circuit court.
In that document, the nine are accused of “striking (the pledges) with paddles and/or striking with hands and/or requiring the performance of calisthenics” on January 22. No other details have been released.
In February, days after the case came to light, university President Bernie Machen announced in an e-mail to students that Alpha Phi Alpha was being temporarily suspended in light of what he called a “serious physical hazing incident.”
Dave Kratzer, Florida’s vice president for student affairs, added at the time that no one was hospitalized after the incident but that the school felt compelled to act, regardless.
“It’s not in the realm of seriousness on the far end of things, when you think about what could have occurred with hazing, and we want to stop it now,” Kratzer told CNN.
The executive director of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. said at the time that a cease-and-desist order was issued against the local chapter and stressed that “hazing is dangerous and illegal and must stop!”
The historically black fraternity dates back to 1906, when it was founded at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. According to its website, Alpha Phi Alpha “has a zero tolerance level in regards to hazing/pledging and strongly prohibits these illegal activities in any form.”
The alleged hazing incident happened off the school’s Gainesville campus, according to Machen’s e-mail to students, which was obtained by CNN.
The charges in the University of Florida case were filed Monday, two days before charges were announced against 13 people tied to an investigation into the case of Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion – whose November 2011 death, authorities have said, was a result of hazing.
Eleven of those individuals face one count of third-degree felony hazing resulting in death, which is punishable by up to six years in prison, according to officials.
By contrast, the hazing charges in the University of Florida case are all misdemeanors, said Spencer Mann, a spokesman for 8th Judicial Circuit State Attorney William Cervone’s office. If convicted, these men could be sentenced to one year in prison and be forced to pay as much as a $1,000 fine.
The FAMU incident prompted Florida Gov. Rick Scott to order all state universities to examine their hazing and harassment policies in December. Scott also asked all university presidents to remind their students, faculty and staff “how detrimental hazing can be.”