Case Studies: Hazing

Club President Successfully Defends Hazing Charges for Lack of Injury

The president of a sailing club retained the Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team after local authorities charged her with hazing. The sailing club had a ritual of inducting new members through an elaborate passage of water rites. Before the first race in which new members participated, the current members would line the main dock of the marina, where members kept their sailboats. The new members would then walk a humorous gauntlet of water pistols and confetti to their sailboat. The members held the club president responsible for ensuring fun, safe, and memorable festivities. On this occasion of inducting a single new member whom the current members did not yet know well, our client had added flour and rice to the gauntlet, recognizing that those materials would stick to and make a mess of the wet inductee. The president further planned to push the inductee into the water at the gauntlet's end, expecting the dunking to clean those materials from the inductee. The inductee instead suffered great stress and embarrassment, which the inductee claimed to the police included some injury. At trial, our lead defense attorney cross-examined the inductee to show that the inductee, while offended and embarrassed, was a good swimmer, had readily climbed out of the water, and had no injury or reasonable fear of injury. Our closing argument further emphasized the hazing charge's injury element. Jurors acquitted our client, a physical therapist who had been concerned about the impact of a conviction on her therapy license.

Sorority Officer Avoids Hazing Charge With Resolution Agreement

A sorority officer at a private New Jersey college retained the Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team after college disciplinary officials threatened to report her to the police and kick her out of school for an initiation weekend the officer had led for new sorority members. Our client admitted that the weekend had gotten out of hand, more so than prior initiations to which college officials had also objected. The accidental injury of a sorority pledge who had to visit the local hospital's emergency room triggered the disciplinary officials' investigation. Our Criminal Defense Team notified the college officials of our firm's appearance on our client's behalf. After getting the details of the college charges and concerns, we proposed an informal resolution conference to help our client avoid criminal charges and expulsion or suspension from the school. In advance of the conference, we helped our client develop proposals that sorority members would accept and implement, showing the school their commitment to the college and respect for its rules and concerns. Those proposals included school services that the college would recognize not as punitive and disciplinary but as voluntary good works to benefit the college while simultaneously elevating the visibility and reputation of the sorority. The college officials accepted the proposal after seeing the excitement the sorority members had for engaging in the new school service to elevate the sorority and increase their own service opportunities. We ensured that college officials had not entered any record of discipline on our client's record.

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