Originally created 12/20/96

Attorneys say Citadel women worried about reporting hazing



CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - Two women Citadel cadets hazed by male cadets for weeks did not report the incidents to adults on the military college's staff because they feared it would make matters worse, their attorneys said Thursday.

"They were making do. They were trying to endure," attorney Paul Gibson said. While the cadets knew they could report incidents to the adults, the women worried they would have faced repercussions from fellow cadets, he said.

Kim Messer of Clover and Jeanie Mentavlos of Charlotte, N.C., complained about their treatment to cadet officers, but no action was taken, attorneys said.

The women were the targets of hazing that included setting their clothes on fire, being shoved with rifles and being forced to drink alcohol, their attorneys say.

The State Law Enforcement Division and the FBI are looking into the allegations. A report is expected early next month.

Interim college President R. Clifton Poole said the women could have discussed the accusations with active-duty military officers assigned to their company or female officers if they were uncomfortable talking to the men.

Poole said none of the staff officers received any complaints of hazing. He said a woman military officer checked with the cadets just before Thanksgiving and was told everything was going well.

But Tim Kulp, the attorney representing Ms. Mentavlos, disputed that. He said her parents called school officials several times.

"Jeanie called home and said `This is going on that is above and beyond knob life,"' Kulp said. "Her parents then called the TAC (tactical) officers, and before Jeanie even knows they (her parents) have called she is getting grief (from cadets) for it."

It is against South Carolina law not to report a hazing.

"You end up with two possibilities," Kulp said. "One is that adults knew, and the other is that adults didn't.

"If the adults knew, someone is responsible," he said. "If adults didn't know, I think it is of great concern to say we are letting students run an institution that has at its core the knob system. Who is in command?"

Both women have finished finals and returned home. Gibson said it was unclear whether either will return to campus next month.

"They're going to make their decision on what they want to do," he said, adding "I have my concerns" about their returning after all the publicity.

The college has suspended two cadets and relieved five others of their military command duties.

Poole said the college is conducting its own investigation. He said he would not discipline any adult officers until he receives a written statement from the women or sees the SLED or FBI reports.

He said the women haven't given the college a statement. But Gibson said they have given statements to SLED and the FBI and the school has access to those.

"I'd like to punish some people and move forward," Poole said. "There are two kind of acts here: There are people who do something wrong overtly, and there are people who knew about it and didn't do anything about it. We're after both types."

He said Army Capt. Richard Ellis is the TAC officer for Echo Company where the women were housed.

"I have no reason to suspect in any way that Capt. Ellis is involved or has failed to do his duties. But the investigation is ongoing, and I don't know what I'm going to say when it's all said and done," Poole said.

He said he was taken by surprise when the allegations surfaced because Ellis is one of the better TAC officers on campus and very involved with his cadets.

Kulp said Ms. Mentavlos' parents called Ellis as well as other officers.

Ellis did not immediately return telephone messages seeking comment.

The women were assigned to Echo Company partly because of logistics. One of the other female cadets, Nancy Mace, is in the band company that shares the same barracks, Poole said.

Echo Company is known on campus for its discipline, winning numerous military competitions. Poole said that because of that discipline officials felt confident that the male cadets in the company would obey college rules.

The other female cadets, Ms. Mace of Goose Creek and Petra Lovetinska, a Czech national who lives in Washington, D.C., have not made any hazing allegations.