Testimony About Hazing as House Considers Tougher Penalties - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Testimony About Hazing as House Considers Tougher Penalties

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Johnny Powell II said he had to do push-ups with sharp bottle caps beneath his hands. Kevin Hayes testified that he was beaten and ridiculed.

Both men had pledged a Greek organization at their respective Maryland universities, hoping to make friends and connections. On Tuesday they shared their stories before a House committee in support of a bill that would increase the maximum fine for hazing from $500 to $5,000.

"By putting this bill through you'll be helping, you'll be deterring those thinking about hazing," said Hayes, 20. "You'll be saying if you want to do this, we'll hurt you in your wallet, in your bank. Five thousand dollars is not an easy sum to come up with. Five thousand dollars is a mortgage, a (child's) schooling."

Under current Maryland law, hazing is a misdemeanor and carries a maximum fine of $500 and six months behind bars.

The bill, co-sponsored by Del. Karen Young, D-Frederick County, and Del. Kirill Reznik, D-Montgomery County, would keep the maximum time behind bars at six months. The legislation is cross-filed with a bill in the Senate. Another House bill would increase prison time to nine months.

"There's a whole volume of literature on cases that would bring tears to your eyes about beatings and harassment, humiliation, isolation, sleep deprivation, sex acts, and so many of these students are afraid to come forward because they fear retaliation, humiliation," Young said. "They join these groups with the desire to belong even believing it will help their resume. And they're sadly disappointed."

Powell, 22, pledged Kappa Alpha Psi in 2013 at Coppin State University and said he was subjected to a series of hazing rituals, including being paddled and caned.

Hayes, currently a junior at Bowie State University, pledged the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity in 2013. During his pledge, he told lawmakers Tuesday, he was subjected to paddling and slapping.

Both have filed lawsuits against the fraternities. A request for comment was sent to both fraternities following the testimony, but they didn't immediately respond. Each has their own anti-hazing policy.

Committee members expressed sympathy for the two young men, as well as for 21-year-old Asya Minion. She is currently a senior at Stevenson University and testified about her experience with hazing while attending Pennsylvania State University in 2012.

But members also wondered whether there was some responsibility for students to not put themselves in the position to be hazed.

"You mean to tell me that you go to college and not believe that would be part of the ritual, the initiation, even though you hear about it all the time?" asked Del. Frank Conaway Jr., D- Baltimore City.

Minion said after the hearing that it was that kind of skepticism and questioning that "make people not speak up."

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