Madison County

UK joins probe of alleged hazing at EKU

An investigation into a violent hazing incident at Eastern Kentucky University has now spread to the University of Kentucky.

UK officials confirmed Wednesday that they have begun investigating whether members of UK's Kappa Alpha Psi chapter were involved in the March incident that left an EKU student hospitalized.

”We are now asking officials at Eastern and with the national chapter to cooperate with us in our own investigation to determine if UK students or the chapter have been implicated in this matter, and of course the university will take appropriate action,“ UK spokesman Jay Blanton said.

EKU student Brent Whiteside, 23, was hospitalized March 8 for injuries received while he was a candidate for admission to the Kappa Alpha Psi chapter at Eastern.

EKU has confirmed that hazing occurred and suspended the Kappas from campus for eight years.

Richmond police issued warrants last week for three men they say were involved in the hazing. Thomas Barnes, 21, Gabriel M. McLaren, 22, and Alonzo C. McGill, 32, will be arraigned in Madison County on July 8.

On Wednesday, the attorney whose firm represents McLaren and McGill denied the allegations and said the EKU fraternity used the two men as scapegoats.

The Kappa Alpha Psi national office notified UK at the end of the spring semester that it would investigate the school's chapter of the fraternity. Kappa officials also ordered the chapter to cease fraternity activity, Blanton said.

The combination of the Kappa national office's demand and the results of EKU's inquiry prompted UK to do its own investigation, Blanton said.

Neither UK nor EKU has received formal information from Kappa Alpha Psi regarding the national fraternity's investigation of the chapters.

Richard Lee Snow, executive director of the Philadelphia-based fraternity, declined to comment on his organization's findings at EKU and UK or individual charges.

”I'm not in the position to share any of the individual sanctions,“ Snow said.

Snow said he will release an official paper that outlines the fraternity's rulings, but declined to offer a date for the release.

Snow said Kappa Alpha Psi supports EKU's decision to suspend the chapter.

”We truly, truly stand behind the university's sanctions, and we'll do anything and everything we can to bring charges to anyone who hazes or any form thereof,“ Snow said.

Hazing was banned at Kappa Alpha Psi and other historically black Greek organizations in 1990. But the practice went ”underground,“ meaning it became more secretive, unregulated and dangerous, experts say.

The severity of the allegations at EKU prompted local law enforcement to become involved.

According to the criminal complaint, Barnes, McLaren and McGill struck Whiteside with their fists, a paddle and a cane, which caused kidney failure. Whiteside spent several days at Central Baptist Hospital in Lexington.

Barnes and McLaren were undergraduates at EKU at the time. McGill is an alumnus.

Richmond police charged the three men with fourth-degree assault, which carries a penalty of up to 12 months in jail and a $500,000 fine. Barnes was arrested June 18 and released Friday from the Madison County Detention Center, jail officials said.

Police have recalled the warrants against McLaren and McGill and issued summonses for the men to turn themselves in voluntarily, said Jim Baechtold, who represents McLaren. Attorney Michael Eubanks, who works at the same firm, represents McGill.

McLaren and McGill will enter not-guilty pleas at their arraignment, Baechtold said.

”It's my belief that only one side of the story has been heard and that after our clients are given the opportunity to present a defense in court, then they will be exonerated,“ he said.

Baechtold also questioned EKU's assertion that the Kappas' chapter faculty adviser, president and many members were unaware of the hazing.

”I find it hard to believe that either the university, the local chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi and the national chapter were unaware of any of the allegations that have been brought forth,“ he said. ”It is also my belief that Kappa Alpha Psi is looking for scapegoats to avoid a possible civil suit against the fraternity.“

EKU spokesman Marc Whitt said in response that the university ”will continue to cooperate with the appropriate authorities throughout the legal process.“

Chapter faculty adviser Wardell Johnson said the fraternity has done a lot on the front end of the pledge process to ensure that hazing does not take place, such as having members sign forms acknowledging the group's anti-hazing policy.

Current members and those who apply to be part of the fraternity are well aware of the policies, Johnson said.