Hazing defendants seek case’s dismissal

By Ashlee Clark

aclark@herald-leader.com

RICHMOND — The mother of an Eastern Kentucky University student who was allegedly hazed while he attempted to enter a fraternity said she is fortunate that her son lived through the experience.

Renea Houston, the mother of Brent Whiteside, said Thursday that fraternities seem unable to police themselves when pledging new members.

”What was supposed to be a positive experience turned negative,“ she said as she stood outside the courtroom moments after a preliminary hearing in her son’s case.

Whiteside, 23, was hospitalized March 8 after he sought membership into EKU’s chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc.

EKU students Thomas Barnes, 21, and Gabriel M. McLaren, 22, and alumnus Alonzo C. McGill, 32, have been charged with fourth-degree assault in the case.

Richmond police say the three men struck Whiteside with their fists, a paddle and a cane, causing kidney failure. He spent several days at Central Baptist Hospital in Lexington.

Barnes, McLaren and McGill have pleaded not guilty to the charge.

On Thursday, attorneys for the three men entered motions in Madison District Court to dismiss the case and change the venue. They also requested more information about Whiteside’s allegations.

According to the motion, Whiteside’s complaint is ”absolutely devoid of any specific dates and times making it impossible for the defendant to alibi himself or prepare any other sort of meaningful defense.“

The documents also state that it is unclear whether the alleged assault occurred in Madison County or Fayette County.

Jim Baechtold, McLaren’s attorney, has said it is unfair that the three defendants have been singled out in the investigation because other fraternity members have been cited for hazing by the national organization.

A Kappa regional director recommended in May that six other Kappa Alpha Psi members from the University of Kentucky be expelled from the fraternity for their roles in the alleged hazing, but none of the men have been charged criminally. The recommendation is pending, but Richard Lee Snow, executive director of the fraternity, said the reprimands will be ”standardly accepted by the fraternity and will probably be approved by Sept. 1.“

In response to the hazing investigation, the fraternity’s chapters have been suspended at both EKU and UK.

Barnes and McLaren declined to comment Thursday on the advice of their attorneys. McGill, a New York resident, was not in court.

Whiteside also declined to comment.

Houston said there needs to be harsher penalties for hazing charges in Kentucky.

The experience has been difficult for her as a parent, Houston said.

”I hope that no other parent has to get that phone call,“ she said.

District Judge William Clouse Jr. scheduled a pretrial hearing for 1:30 p.m. Aug. 26 in district court. Whiteside will be called as a witness.


Ashlee Clark covers Madison County for the Herald-Leader. Reach her at (859) 626-5878.
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