Students charged with hazing ask for jury trial
Fatal Phi Tau fire and hazing charges
Thursday, August 9, 2007 5:44 PM CDTÂ
LINCOLN, Neb. – Two Nebraska Wesleyan University students charged with hazing after police investigated a fatal fire at the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity house have asked for a jury trial.
The request from Jed Tompkins, 22, of Crete, and Lance Daharsh, 21, of Lincoln, was filed Thursday in Lancaster County Court.
Their attorney, Kirk Naylor, said the request was made to protect his clients rights.
In Nebraska, only suspects charged with a felony automatically get a jury trial. Those charged with lesser offenses _ hazing is a misdemeanor _ must request one.
Tompkins, the president of the Wesleyan chapter of Phi Kappa Tau at the time of the Nov. 17, fire, and Daharsh were charged after police finished their investigation into the death of Ryan Stewart.
The 19-year-old from Ord died shortly after a fire that is believed to have started in a second-story room around 4 a.m. on Nov. 17.
The search warrant affidavit released shortly after the fire said fraternity members told authorities fireworks were set off in or around the fraternity house shortly before the fire broke out. Investigators confiscated dozens of bottle rockets, 1 1/2-inch firecrackers, pop rockets and other larger fireworks. Some fireworks were also found on the grounds around the fraternity, the court document said.
Authorities said after the fatal fire that it probably was not set intentionally. An arson-detection dog did not find traces of flammable liquids.
If convicted, Tompkins and Daharsh each face up to six months in jail, a $1,000 fine or both.
Another student, 22-year-old Brandon Lovegrove from Grafton, was charged with attempted first-degree arson, hazing, illegal possession of fireworks and unlawful throwing of fireworks. Those charges were not related to the fire that killed Stewart.
Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com