Hazing Charges Dismissed Against Methodist College Football Players
Posted March 26, 2003 8:26 a.m. EST
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — A prosecutor dismissed hazing charges Friday against seven Methodist College football players accused of helping sodomize a teammate with a felt pen.
District Attorney Ed Grannis said he has asked the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office to investigate the case. At the end of the investigation, Grannis will decide whether to charge the men again.
The dismissal came because of a Dec. 31 state Court of Appeals ruling that called enforcement of state laws by a religious institution unconstitutional.
The religious institution in that case was Pfeiffer University, a Methodist-affiliated college. A drunken driving charge filed by one of Pfeiffer's police officers was dismissed.
The hazing charges at Methodist College were also filed by the campus police.
The charges came after Kent Murphy, 18, said he was assaulted by seven of his teammates in November. According to police reports, the seven pinned Murphy to the floor and stripped him.
Antonio Wilkerson allegedly sexually assaulted Murphy with the pen, while teammates tried to write on his buttocks with a marker.
Wilkerson, the only player expelled from Methodist, was charged with misdemeanor hazing and second-degree sex offense, a felony. He had been scheduled for a court appearance Tuesday.
The other men - Crasten Davis, Angel Garcia, William Brown, Jamaal Legette, William McPhaul and Shawn Watkins - were charged with misdemeanor hazing. Methodist placed all of them on probation.
The decision to dismiss the charges was a tactical one, Grannis said.
By dismissing the cases before trial and asking for an investigation by a law enforcement agency not affiliated with the college, prosecutors could go forward with new charges.
The Sheriff's Office investigation will remove the constitutional question of the mingling of church and state, he said.
Tron Faulk, a lawyer who represents Kent Murphy, said she sent the Pfeiffer University case to Grannis.
"First of all, we were disappointed that the DA's office and Methodist didn't recognize this case before," Faulk said. "We wanted to make sure these guys were adequately charged.
"We didn't want it to go to appeal and be overturned."
Faulk said she was disappointed that new charges against the men were not filed immediately. She questioned why the sheriff's office will investigate the case, rather than the Fayetteville Police Department.
Grannis said it was his call to request the sheriff's office.