Originally created 10/17/00

Members of fraternity escape charge



Athens-Clarke County Solicitor General Ralph Powell said Monday he won't press misdemeanor hazing charges against fraternity members found transporting two others blindfolded in the cargo hold of a sport utility vehicle.

Evidence suggests the University of Georgia students weren't put at risk for physical harm, a requirement under the state hazing statute, Mr. Powell said.

"I don't see how it was endangering them," he said. "There was no allegation of excessive speed or erratic driving. There was no alcohol or drugs. Their freedom was not restricted by the driver. I don't condone the conduct, but it's not prohibited by the statute."

Also, he said students told investigators their vision wasn't obstructed during the drive by the blindfolds: One was looking out under the cloth, and the "other guy could see through the blindfold."

The students still could face possible sanctions under the university's policies, which prohibit even minor forms of hazing, regardless of a student's willingness to participate.

Campus police Thursday identified the driver as Tom Samuel Easterly of Athens and the passengers as Leland Hogan Barrow of Newnan and Hunter Reddick Hopkins of Thomaston. The blindfolded students were identified as Justin Connell of Thomaston and John Grayson Stewart of Atlanta.

Police stopped the SUV, with its five passengers, Oct. 3 on South Milledge Avenue. The students initially identified themselves as Greek Horsemen, an honor society that keeps a low profile at the university. The students later told police they were members of a secret society called Acropolis.

In March, a handcuffed and blindfolded University of Georgia student died in an SUV accident during a fraternity prank. The fraternity, Alpha Tau Omega, disbanded its charter, and four students face criminal charges.