TUSCALOOSA, Ala. ― A judge delayed the trial Wednesday for five one-time University of Alabama fraternity members charged with hazing new members who allegedly were forced to stand in ice water until they had frostbite.
District Judge Joel R. Chandler’s office announced the postponement hours before the trial was set to begin. He previously said the case would go ahead as planned, but some defendants sought a delay.
The case was tentatively rescheduled for March 1, the judge’s office said.
The five are fighting the charges, court documents indicate, but they were expelled from Phi Gamma Delta, which has a policy prohibiting hazing.
The defendants include Richard Eugene Markwalter II, Hunter Lee Wagner and Mark Allen Powers II, all 20 and from Huntsville; John Patrick Buckley, 21, of Houston; and Colter K. Anderson, 22, of Dallas.
Markwalter, Wagner, Buckley and Anderson were each charged with three counts of hazing, a misdemeanor under Alabama law. Powers was charged with one count of hazing, and Wagner also was charged with marijuana possession.
Each hazing count carries a maximum penalty of $500.
Wagner’s attorney filed a document stating “each defendant will engage in finger-pointing at the other defendants.” Anderson’s lawyer filed a document showing he was in drug and alcohol rehabilitation and could not be in court.
Alabama has what is described as the nation’s largest Greek community with more than 10,000 members in 61 fraternities and sororities. Multimillion-dollar mansions occupied by Greek-letter organizations dot the campus, and Phi Gamma Delta has what’s arguably the best location ― directly across the street from Bryant-Denny Stadium and a short walk from a row of bars and restaurants popular with students.
Police depositions allege Phi Gamma Delta pledges Cameron Ewing, Hall Bryant and Benton Jones were told to stand in a cooler full of ice water and salt in a bathroom of the white-columned fraternity house on Sept. 14. Upperclassmen asked the pledges questions to test their knowledge of fraternity brothers during the ordeal, which lasted 15 to 20 minutes, one of the depositions said.
Anderson stomped on a bare, frostbitten foot of Bryant and told him to “man up,” police alleged, and Powers made Bryant stick his head in a toilet, which a fraternity brother flushed in what was called a “swirly.”
All three new members were treated for frostbite in Tuscaloosa and then transferred to the burn unit at UAB Hospital in Birmingham with second- and three-degree burns, records show.
All five except Powers told officers they knew the treatment was hazing, a police deposition said.
“They all stated there was no intent to injure the victims and they agreed it went too far,” the document said. “Anderson even admitted that he knows this same form of hazing has occurred inside the fraternity house before.”
The university notified police after learning of the hazing allegations, a police statement said, and the five fraternity brothers were arrested after the new members gave statements to investigators.