Dante’s Inferno by Hank Nuwer

October 31st, 2014


Dante’s Inferno By Hank Nuwer

I’ve never been a fan of trying to end a persistent criminal act by making an example of one guilty party.

Nonetheless, Florida A & M band member Dante Martin may soon become a human cautionary tale for those who would take hazing to a felony level by either beating someone or encouraging/coercing someone to guzzle lethal amounts of alcohol.

Barring a mistrial should Dante Martin’s legal team of Ricahrd Escobar and Dino Michaels successfully appeal, the now-convicted, two-time felon will be sentenced in January from a minimum one year sentence up to 22 years (15 for manslaughter; seven for three counts of felony hazing) in the death of FAMU band member Robert Champion.

Florida State Attorney Jeff Ashton told Orlando Sentinel reporters following the verdict that he hoped the seriousness of the Martin judicial decision would deter other young men and women in band, athletics, fraternities and clubs from conducting hazing activities qualifying as deadly and demeaning.

A jury deliberated just two hours before delivering the verdict to Circuit Judge Renee Roche.

The parents of Robert Champion stressed there were no winners in the courtroom today. The sobbing family of Dante Martin will only see him while he is wearing an orange jump suit for a long time to come. The Champions will never visit their son Robert. And the cruel unknown, of course, is whether Robert Champion, had he survived the brutal attack on Bus C, would have pushed for all such hazings to end or if he, too, would have been part of a deadly tradition.

It is unlikely that the judge will sentence Dante Martin to a 22-year term, but soon, since word travels fast in the world of college sport and Greek life, all potential perpetrators will know that they could be sentenced to a term equal to one-third or one-quarter of their lives.

They will know that they could be walking the prison yard with rapists, killers and other career criminals.

No, I am not pleased that Mr. Dante Martin will serve as a national symbol of what can happen to a hazer when the worst happens.

But he now clearly IS an example. How ironic that his first name is Dante. Like the pilgrim in Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, his life now begins a journey through Hell. Dante’s good life thrown away for hazing. Thrown away for brutality. Thrown away because of a hazing death.

And hazing makes sense?



A FAMU band member was found guilty by a jury of manslaughter & felony hazing. Dante Martin will be sentenced Jan. 9.

Empire High School–Five juniors victimize one younger player. 

Here is the link.


While hazing extends beyond football, you’ve got to wonder how much the sport’s macho mind-set contributes to and exacerbates the problem.

“There usually are two reasons for hazing,” said Hank Nuwer, a Franklin College professor who has long studied the practice and advocated for laws against it. “There are those with status and power trying to show their dominance over those who haven’t achieved those things. And sometimes players are hazed in order to get them to quit.”

Nuwer has compiled a database to track the grisly trend. It chronicles 56 hazing-related deaths between 1970 and 1999, and at least one every year since.

The Philadelphia area has had its share of them. In 1954, a Swarthmore football player was killed by a car after teammates abandoned him on a darkened country road. And since the mid-1970s, there have been hazing deaths at Penn, Lehigh, Dickinson, Franklin and Marshall, Rutgers, Bloomsburg, and Delaware, according to Huwer’s research.

Most often the victims died of alcohol intoxication, but some were struck by cars, drowned, electrocuted, even buried alive.

There’s been little research tracking high school hazing. But according to a recent Alfred University study, more than a quarter-million college athletes experience some form of it.

One in five were either tied up and abandoned or forced to commit a crime. Half were forced to consume alcohol, often in great quantities. Two-thirds were deprived of sleep, food, or personal hygiene or humiliated in some other way. Beating, burning, kicking, and branding were commonplace.

Overall, 79 percent of college athletes reported being subjected to some form of hazing. The problem is that only 60 percent said they would report it.

Football players, the study noted, were most likely to be subjected to the worst kind of hazing, that which risked serious physical harm or arrest. Given the sport’s tough-guy image, that’s not surprising.

If those are the numbers for college, by which time many young athletes might be expected to have matured, how bad is it in our high schools?

“There’s certainly been an increase in reported cases,” said Nuwer. “But there’s no way of knowing if there’s more hazing than in the past. It’s been going on for a long time, but in 1989-1990 we started to see more of it. I said then that all these cases were like a red light on the dashboard of a car that was still running. Now it’s like a red light on the dash of a car that’s stalled. There are so many it’s been hard for me to keep up with them.”

He put some of the blame on professional athletes, whose hazing customs often involve demeaning rookies by making them wear outlandish costumes or perform demeaning tasks.

“They’ve sent messages to these immature high school kids that hazing is OK, that it’s somehow entertaining,” he said. “It trivializes it.”

Until it’s prosecuted vigorously, until the coaches and administrators who condone such barbarity are punished more severely, hazing will continue.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/20141026_Giving__Em_Fitz__No_more_tolerance_for__boys-will-be-boys__behavior.html#WfMZhC64ePzkxaXi.99

Thank you to Dean for the update.  This will be added as a hazing/pledging related death, although the charges of serving alcohol to a minor where a fatality then occurs are far more serious (possible 5-year sentence) in terms of possible sanctions. The following is the best coverage available on the update.

By Jonathan Edwards

Four FarmHouse fraternity members were jailed Thursday afternoon on suspicion of giving an 18-year-old the alcohol that killed him, and University of Nebraska-Lincoln officials are suspending the chapter indefinitely.

The arrests came nearly two months after Clayton Real, an 18-year-old freshman in his second week of college, died in his room at the fraternity at 3601 Apple St. A fellow fraternity member found him at 7:30 the morning of Sept. 5.

Investigators found that Real had attended a “frosh party” FarmHouse hosted the previous evening at 2009 S. 16th St., UNL Assistant Chief Charlotte Evans said in an email.

FarmHouse members provided alcohol to residents of the house in exchange for hosting the party, Evans said. Witnesses told investigators that organizers also gave alcohol to Real and other underage party-goers.

Real’s blood alcohol tested at .378 — 4½ times the legal limit to drive — and a pathologist ruled that his cause of death was acute alcohol intoxication, Evans said.

Police jailed the four fraternity members Thursday on suspicion of felony procuring alcohol to a minor resulting in death.

They are Vance A. Heyer, 21, vice president; Thomas D. Trueblood, 19, freshman social chair; Cory F. Foland, 21, new member educator; and Ross E. Reynolds, 22, member.

They face five years in prison after a 2011 law made procuring alcohol for a minor a felony if the minor dies as a result.

Police also cited three other UNL students: FarmHouse member William J. Miller, 21, for misdemeanor procuring alcohol and Marin L. Hartfield and Lauren A. Williams, both 20, for maintaining a disorderly house.

Police are still investigating but don’t expect more arrests.

UNL officials were in the process of suspending the chapter indefinitely, which means freshmen members will have to move out of FarmHouse and into university housing, spokesman Steve Smith said Thursday evening.

There are about three dozen active FarmHouse chapters, most of them in the Midwest and South, according to the Kansas City-based organization’s website.

Mark Fahleson, the local FarmHouse chapter’s spokesman, couldn’t be reached Thursday for comment.

Students charged in connection with Real’s death could face university sanctions once their cases are resolved, but it’s too soon to know what those consequences might be, Smith said.

“We’re watching this process very closely,” he added.

Real, from Grafton, was majoring in agricultural economics and eventually planned to go back to his hometown to work on the family farm and feedlot, his mom said in September. In high school, he played football and competed in rodeos, something he planned to continue doing at UNL.

He was diagnosed with Type I diabetes when he was 5 and had to use an insulin pump to manage it. His mother, Kelli Real, said he was very familiar with handling the disease.

The night after Real died, more than 1,000 mourners gathered in front of the Nebraska Union for a candlelight vigil. The vigil also remembered Keaton Klein, a senior accounting major from Lincoln who died July 14 while in the Czech Republic.