Expert: Lengthy jail time not likely for VSU hazing death charges
Petersburg, Va. - VSU students stood together in song and sorrow Friday afternoon during a memorial service for freshmen Marvell Edmondson and Jauwan Holmes.
Police say the Portsmouth and Williamsburg natives drowned last week during an initiation ritual for the group Men of Honor. VSU said it was aware of the group, but it is not an official campus organization.
James Mackey, Eriq Benson, Cory Baytop and Charles Zollicoffer have been charged with hazing in connection to the deaths, but experts say Virginia’s hazing laws won’t lead to lengthy jail time if the men are convicted.
“The law really needs to have more teeth,” said hazing expert Hank Nuwer.
Virginia’s hazing law is a class one misdemeanor. It’s maximum penalty is one year in jail and $2, 500 fine.
Five men charged with hazing in the death of Radford University student Samuel Mason were given suspended jail sentences and $1,000 fines.
“I would venture to guess that this case would be pretty similar,” said Nuwer in reference to the men charged in the VSU incident.
“Outdated rituals performed in the name of brotherly love have no place in building a better world,” said VSU President Keith Miller during the memorial service. “We will not tolerate this behavior. We must learn the lessons of Jauwan and Marvell to ensure their deaths are not in vain.”