Originally created 04/12/98

Brawl involving football players, fraternity shakes university



NORMAL, Ill. -- It started with a college clichDe: a drunken scuffle at a Saturday night fraternity party.

But this time, the hard feelings didn't fade as the next day's hangovers kicked in. Instead, police say, they festered and inspired a brutal mission of vengeance, complete with clubs, a bat and broken beer bottles.

Now eight Illinois State football players are accused of battery, mob action and felony home invasion in an attack on the fraternity.

Joe Benarroch, a 19-year-old sophomore member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, was one of about 40 frat brothers in the fraternity's basement for a meeting on March 22 when attackers burst in.

"There were people holding bats, there was a guy holding a club, just storming in," Benarroch said. "It was just chaos. Chairs were being thrown around. People were fleeing for their lives."

Six fraternity members were hospitalized for injuries ranging from a mangled hand to cuts and bruises. All were released.

By the time police arrived, many of the 20 or so attackers had fled. But the three people arrested had a common tie -- all were members of the university's football team.

Police trace the attack to a party at the fraternity house the night before. According to witnesses, a fight erupted after fraternity members caught a football player urinating in their shower and tried to get him to leave, said police Lt. Tony Daniels.

Because no police report was filed Saturday night, no one is sure who instigated the fight. Fraternity members insist they were not to blame.

But the Sunday attack appears to be retaliatory, Daniels said.

"Individuals identified as ISU football players ... basically began to wail on members of the fraternity," he said. "They had quite a lot of football players there."

The university's athletic department suspended the eight players who have been charged so far. They are: defensive linemen Jason Leach, 20, Leonard Reliford, 19, and Aaron M. Hallead, 19; defensive back Kenneth Ramsey, 22; linebacker Christopher Marks, 18; running back Mark A. Hosey Jr., 19; and walk-ons Robert Boyd, 19, and Aveion Cason, 18.

Two other players were arrested but never charged.

The players have not responded publicly to the charges and could not be reached by telephone, either because their numbers are not listed or they did not answer.

But football coach Todd Berry said at a news conference after the attack that he thought the reported number of players involved was exaggerated. He also said some players were "beaten up" in Saturday's fight at the fraternity party.

"It's right for everybody involved to suffer the natural consequences of doing something wrong in both incidents," Berry said.

Athletic director Rick Greenspan said he and Berry have met with the team to sort out what happened. They are relying on the court system and university disciplinary process to help decide their next course of action, he said.

"Our approach has been one of disappointment, dismay, remorse," Greenspan said.

He called the incident an embarrassment but noted that it involves only a few players on Illinois State's 90-man roster.

The university has begun its own student judicial review of the attack, said ISU spokesman Jay Groves.

Prosecutors are sifting through more than 50 statements police took from witnesses.

At the fraternity house, little evidence remains of the attack. A gaping hole in the basement marks the place where the fraternity's letters used to be, and a few window panes are broken.

But members still remember the attack vividly.

They hope for swift justice as they try to put the incident behind them, Benarroch said.

"You don't necessarily heal," he said. "You don't forget. You just move on."