Eight of the 11 women charged with Class A Misdemeanors in connection to the alleged volleyball team hazing incident accepted plea deals at the Geneseo Village Court on Tuesday Nov. 13. Village Justice Thomas C. Bushnell presided and began the proceedings by calling the defendants and their respective attorneys to the front and introducing a “special guest,” Livingston County District Attorney Greg McCaffrey.
Bushnell then announced that, as a result of McCaffrey’s recommendation for a plea reduction, the court was prepared to offer the defendants a one-year-long adjournment and contemplation of dismissal for both charges of hazing and unlawfully dealing with a child in the first degree.
By accepting this plea bargain, the women agreed to complete two weekends of community service through the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office, as well as two speaking engagements at surrounding high schools that will be set up by their attorneys.
“We think we’re going to try to use their stature as college athletes to talk to local high school students, and specifically high school athletes, about what these girls lost by making this ill-advised and stupid decision,” McCaffrey said after the proceedings.
According to McCaffrey, during these presentations the women are to speak about the incident and the implications that they experienced.
As a teacher in the Geneseo Central School District, Bushnell said he is concerned about the women “going out and presenting misinformation” to the high school students. As such, he required that the women share their presentations with him in writing before their speaking engagements to assure that their information is “fitting” and “proper.”
Before dismissing the women from the courtroom, Bushnell shared his opinion on the outcome of the civil suit.
“This court understands the necessity of such a plea, but I don’t like it,” he said. “It is crystal clear to me that there are members of this group that are more responsible than others.” Bushnell said that the acts that the women allegedly committed were “premeditated, abusive, degrading and life-threatening.”
“You are in no way victims,” Bushnell said to the women. “You ignored warnings from the college … and abused fellow teammates. Anyone who would suggest that you are victims is below my contempt.”
In his final statement, Bushnell said, “If you’re lucky, some of you will hold a baby in your arms someday. Remember what you did to somebody else’s baby.”
The case’s legal outcome and the volleyball team’s season cancellation are juxtaposed against recent crackdowns around the country.
According to SUNY Binghamton’s student newspaper Pipe Dream, no Binghamton students were formally charged in connection to reports last semester of physical hazing within several Greek organizations on campus. The university’s administration, however, suspended pledging for the spring 2012 semester and is implementing a proactive hazing education program for incoming pledges.
According to CBS News, several marching band members of the Florida A&M University were charged with felonies for beating a new drum major to death during a hazing ritual. So far, one member has been sentenced on a third-degree felony charge.
“When you have 11 people charged, some are always going to be more culpable and some are going to be less culpable,” McCaffrey said. “These girls got a substantial break here tonight. Let’s try to turn a negative into a positive moving forward.”