August 21, 1997 in Nation/World

Charges Won’t Be Filed In Citadel Hazing Case

Bruce Smith Associated Press
 

No charges will be filed in connection with the alleged hazing of two women cadets who later dropped out of The Citadel because South Carolina’s anti-hazing law does not apply, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

While the law bans hazing as part of initiation into any student fraternity or sorority or similar organization, the state military school’s cadet corps does not qualify as a fraternity or sorority, Solicitor David Schwacke said.

Two women, Jeanie Mentavlos and Kim Messer, joined the cadet corps last August but dropped out in January, saying they had been hazed and harassed. Among their allegations is that their clothes were set on fire.

Schwacke said he considered other charges, such as assault, but he would have to show there was an intent to commit the crime.

“There is insufficient evidence of criminal intent,” he said, displaying sweatshirts, T-shirts and hats, all with burn holes.

Mentavlos’ lawyer, Dick Harpootlian, had told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he asked Schwacke to present witnesses to a grand jury “concerning the assault and hazing” of his client.

“He refused and indicated he would not only not prosecute a case, but if a grand jury returned an indictment he would not prosecute it,” Harpootlian said. “I think that Schwacke’s made a political rather than a judicial decision.”

Harpootlian said he planned to contact the state attorney general about pursuing charges.

The hazing allegations surfaced in December. The State Law Enforcement Division’s report into possible violations of the state anti-hazing law went to Schwacke in June.

Mentavlos and Messer were among four women who enrolled at the state military college a year ago. The Citadel admitted women following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said Virginia Military Institute must also drop its all-male status.

The two other female cadets completed their freshman year. Fourteen male cadets were punished or left school as a result of a college investigation.

A Justice Department spokeswoman said this week the agency’s probe of possible federal criminal civil rights violations is continuing.

Nineteen more women are expected to enroll Saturday.


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