Football Players Charged With Hazing, Allowed to Play

PHOTO: Five Athletes Are Charged With Beating Classmate.
They are still in the playoffs because the charges are misdemeanors.PlayABC News
WATCH Five Athletes Charged With Beating Classmate

When the Dr. Phillips High School football team rolled to a 52-3 victory Friday night, five of the players stood accused of brutally beating a freshman player two months ago -- but their coaches and school officials did not know who they were.

The Florida State Attorney's Office said Friday that misdemeanor charges had been filed against five members of the Orlando powerhouse football team, but because the accused are juveniles, their names were not released.

They are charged in an alleged hazing incident in September, when 15-year-old freshman Darrion Denson said some two-dozen teens severely beat him in the school locker room.

Denson's father told ABC affiliate WFTV in Orlando that his son suffered a concussion in the beating, and still has memory loss and migraines.

Prosecutors have identified only one of the people charged in the incident, 18-year-old Chris Gallon, a wide-receiver on the Panthers, who are ranked No. 1 in Class 6A and improved to 11-0 with the victory over Olympia High School Friday night. They host No. 12 Oak Ridge in the region semifinals on Friday.

Denson, who transfered to Olympia after the beating, was in the stands at Dr. Phillips with his father to watch the game Friday night and said it was emotionally hard for him to be there.

"Yeah, very tough knowing that locker room is right there where everything happened," Denson told WFTV.

New Orange County school board chairman Bill Sublette said the State Attorney's Office doesn't have to tell the district who's been charged because they are juveniles and not accused of felonies, so even if district officials wanted to take the teens out of the game, they couldn't.

"If we knew their names, I don't think those who are charged with hazing should be allowed to play," he said.

Sublette told the Orlando Sentinel that he wants the school board to address the issue of hazing at its next meeting, and he wants to see a zero-tolerance policy put in place.

"It disturbs me that one of these charges is misdemeanor hazing," Sublette told the paper. "There needs to be a zero-tolerance policy on hazing, whether it's a misdemeanor or felony."

Denson told police that the incident occurred when an assistant coach asked him to go get a pair of pants from the locker room. He said that once he got there, a number of football players attacked him, beating him until he lost consciousness and then stuffing him in a garbage can.

Denson's father, Porter Denson, told WFTV he thinks the teens allegedly involved in the attack should be charged with a felony.

"My son has possible permanent injuries and I don't see how the prosecutor could come back with such minimum charges, if that's the case," Porter Denson said.

He also said he thought the players charged should not have been on the field Friday night.

"I don't think those charged with hazing should be allowed to play," he said.

But Some other parents at the game Friday night who spoke to WFTV said they thought the five should get to play, despite the misdemeanor hazing and battery charges filed against them earlier in the day.

"These kids have worked hard and the only way they can got to college is on football scholarships," Diann Brown said. "I don't want anything to jeopardize that."

The football coach and athletic director at Dr. Phillips did not respond to calls from WFTV.