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Columbia not guilty pleas

Four say not guilty to hazing

Published: October 4, 2007

By ALISHA WYMAN

The Union Democrat

Four more firefighters on Wednesday entered not-guilty pleas to charges of hazing at the Columbia College Fire Department.

Matthew Anthony Rossi, Aaron Keith Means, Christopher Ryan Ingram and Brian Kendall Cole face misdemeanor charges of hazing and battery.

The charges stem from an incident that occurred at a Jan. 15 off-campus party, where a 19-year-old Stockton student, Andrew Grafius, told officials he was kicked, punched and forced to drink excessive amounts of alcohol.

The judge and the attorneys in the case also set Feb. 4 as the date for a trial, as well as a time line of court hearings leading up to it.

The next time the four defense attorneys and the prosecutor will come before the judge again will be Nov. 8 at 9 a.m., to make sure all parties have all of the discovery related to the case.

Both the defense and the prosecution asked for ample time to review the extensive police reports and transcripts involved.

There were 42 interviews of witnesses, but the defense attorneys only have 15 transcripts, said Deputy Public Defender Maribeth Arendt, who is representing Rossi.

“There’s just a lot of discovery missing,” she said in an interview.

She met with Deputy District Attorney John Hansen on Friday to go through the documents.

“I’ve been through the file page by page,” Hansen said. “I know what we need to get, and I know where we need to get it, I just need more time.”

In a separate but related case, three firefighters pleaded not guilty to hazing earlier this month.

Michael Anthony Hall Sacheli, Cary Eugene Gregg and Timothy Scott O’Neill are suspected of taking part in an initiation ritual Jan. 13, which involved them binding rookie firefighters and spraying them with a fire hose.

There will be a pretrial conference Oct. 17 in that case, and the trial is set for Jan. 14.

Contact Alisha Wyman at awyman@uniondemocrat.com or 588-4527.

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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