Florida A&M Hazing Victim Sues School, Suspects Accused of Beating Pledge

Three members of the marching band are being charged with hazing and battery.

ATLANTA Dec. 13, 2011— -- A freshman Florida A&M student who filed hazing charges against three members of the school's marching band is now suing the school, her attorney announced today.

Bria Shante Hunter, whose thigh bone was broken in the alleged hazing incident, has been harassed since reporting the beating to band director Julian White, her attorney, B.J. Bernstein, said.

"For any person who is subject to hazing, this is a big reason they do not come forward," said Bernstein.

Bernstein also told reporters the freshman is pulling out of the university because of the incident and forfeiting her $82,000 scholarship.

Hunter, 18, was not present at the afternoon news conference in Bernstein's Atlanta law office as she was completing her last exam, the lawyer said.

The three Florida A&M students accused of beating Hunter appeared in court today. The judge set a bond of $2,500 for James Harris, 22, who is charged with hazing. Bonds of $10,000 were set for Sean Hobson, 23, and Aaron Golson, 19, who are charged with hazing and felony battery. They posted bail and have been released from jail.

The trio are members of a group called the Red Dawg Order, which includes band members from Georgia, mainly Atlanta. The alleged beating victim, freshman clarinetist Bria Hunter, is from Atlanta.

The criminal hazing charges come as Florida A&M and police are investigating the Nov. 19 death of the band's drum major Robert Champion. Police have said that they believe hazing was involved in Champion's death. Champion, 26, was also from Georgia.

Four unidentified students were dismissed for their role in Champion's hazing death, which occured just three weeks after Hunter was beaten. They have since been reinstated.

Hunter told police high-ranking band members began initiating her and several others in September. The initiation escalated to beatings on Oct. 31, Hunter told police, when Hobson and Golson pummeled her thighs more than 20 times with their fists, at which point Harris intervened.

On Nov. 1, Hobson -- who told police he was a member of the Red Dawg Order -- struck her thighs with a metal ruler.

On Nov. 7 she went to the hospital where doctors found blood clots in her legs, bone bruising and a cracked femur, according to court documents.

Although possibly connected to Hunter's hazing injuries, the Red Dawg Order wasn't on the radar of campus police.

"There have been no prior reported incidents involving the Red Dawg organization," FAMU Chief of Police Calvin Ross told ABCNews.com.

Last month Hunter told ABC News affiliate WFTV she was beaten at least three times over the course of the semester. "I was just scared because, like, that never happened before," she said.

When asked why she participated in the hazing, she told the station, "So we can be accepted. If you don't do anything, then it's like, you're lame."

Hobson has denied all physical abuse allegations towards Hunter or any other pledge. Harris admitted to joining the Red Dawg Order as a freshman in 2008, but denied ever seeing Hunter get hit.

At today's hearing Golson's attorney, Craig Brown, asked the judge to release his client without bond because Golson was a good student who was cooperating with police, The Associated Press reported. The judge denied that request.

During the police investigation several pledges gave police sworn statements saying they had seen Hobson and Golson repeatedly hit Hunter in the legs while Harris was present. The pledges also told police Hobson and Golson went too far in punishing Hunter. Hunter said she was singled out because she had been deemed the leader of the pledges, who were also allegedly hit during the Red Dawg Order meetings.

Court documents state that Hobson sent a text message to Hunter and others saying, "I apologize for the hurt I put you through. I apologize for the mental and physical strain that you have endured …"

In addition to the alleged physical abuse, Hunter said the pledges were asked to pay Hobson $50 to $60 for a jump suit with the organization's colors. Both Hunter and the other pledges interviewed told police they never received the outfit.

Band Hazing at Florida A&M University

FAMU initially fired band director Julian White and later placed him on administrative leave pending the results of the Champion investigation. Last week FAMU's board of trustees reprimanded school president James Ammons for the way he dealt with hazing.

The Marching 100 has a history of hazing, according to one alum who spoke with ABCNews.com today. Sebastian Alexander–Chambers, 31, who joined the band briefly during 1999, said he left after a month because he didn't fit in with the band's culture.

Prior to joining, he said, he had heard about "the band haze," described as a "process that you have to go through."

It was never divulged what that process was. "Be ready or prepared," he said he was warned.

Alexander-Chambers is from Tallahassee, Fla., and said he never experienced or witnessed hazing similar to that of Hunter, but he saw enough during practice to make him want to leave.

"There were several small things I was subjected to," he said.

Alexander-Chambers, who played the sousaphone, said upperclassmen section leaders would punish any band member who played the wrong note.

"Any discrepancy and they would knock on your knuckles with metal mouthpieces pretty much to teach us not to do that again," he said. "It didn't leave a mark but it was very painful because they are hitting you on your knuckles. As you're playing, of course, your fingers are bent on a 45 degree angle."

At that point, Alexander-Chambers said, he decided to leave.

"I thought, OK, this is not for me. I would rather give back this uniform before I say or do anything that would be unbecoming of me or my character,'" he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.