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Attorney: Hazing is a part of FAMU

TALLAHASSEE — The freshman Florida A&M band member who was beaten so badly she could barely walk was picked on in part because she was deemed the "Ace," or the leader of the pledges for a secret group of Georgia natives known as "Red Dawg Order," authorities said. She was on a full scholarship and believed she had no choice but to be a part of the hazing rituals.

Bria Shante Hunter was punched in the legs and hit with a spatula, notebook binders and rulers on consecutive days because she tried to get out of a group meeting, and she could not properly recite information about the club, her attorney and authorities said. She went to the hospital with a broken thigh, severe bruising and blot clots.

"It's part of the school. It's the best band in the country and you want to be embraced," said Hunter's attorney, B.J. Bernstein. "You really have no choice but to be a part of it, and that's why the school must step in."

Three marching band members, all men, have been charged with hazing in Hunter's beating, authorities said. Two of the men were also charged with battery.

Documents released after the arrests detailed for the first time the secret rituals this fall among the famed Marching 100 band.

Attorneys for two of the men said they plan to plead not guilty, and one lawyer questioned whether the events happened the way police described them in a sworn statement.

Police said Hunter, who played clarinet, was beaten about three weeks before drum major Robert Champion died during what was believed to be hazing on a band bus.

Hunter will give up her four-year, $82,000 scholarship to transfer to another school, said her attorney, who plans to sue the university.

Tallahassee police said the three men arrested were involved in hazing Hunter at an off-campus apartment. Sean Hobson, 23, and 19-year-old Aaron Golson were charged with hazing and battery. An attorney for Golson said he would plead not guilty. Hobson did not yet have an attorney.

James Harris, 22, has been charged with hazing. He helped plan the hazing at his apartment, police said. At one point, however, he told the other two men to stop hitting Hunter.

The men posted bail and have been released from jail.

Authorities said Hunter was targeted Oct. 31 by other members of the "Red Dawg Order" because the men believed she was lying about a meeting that conflicted with a club gathering. She was repeatedly punched on the tops of her thighs by Golson and Hobson, witnesses told police.

Hunter was lined up with about 11 other pledges, ordered to lift her legs as if she were about to march and hit again and again, authorities said.

The next day, police said, Hunter was beaten with a metal ruler when she could not recite information about the "Red Dawg Order" properly.

Hobson sent Hunter a text message Nov. 5 to say he was sorry, according to authorities.

When authorities interviewed him, Hobson denied harming Hunter or sending her a text message.

Attorney: Hazing is a part of FAMU 12/13/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 13, 2011 11:52pm]

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