Formal charges have been filed against four students from the University of Central Arkansas who were allegedly involved in a home invasion and beating of another student in early October.
According to Cody Hiland, prosecuting attorney for the Twentieth Judicial District, James Holder, Jeffery Keith Bramlett, Tyler Nathan Slay and Jeremy Atkins have been charged with eight counts of various offenses, including: residential burglary, terroristic threatening, criminal mischief and battery.
An enhancement is listed under the felony information on the charges, which states that if the suspects are convicted of the crimes, "upon conviction, the classification and penalty range shall be increased by one classification" in pursuant to the Arkansas Code Annotated 5-74-108, which is engaging in violent criminal group activity.
Hiland said his office believes that the suspect’s actions were more serious than just a simple prank and need to be handled as such.
"The alleged acts go far beyond any frat boy prank," he said. "We consider them to be criminal in nature and we will pursue it accordingly. Actions have consequences and in this case, the consequences result in the filing of criminal charges."
The charges stem from an incident that occurred Oct. 9, when the four suspects, who are members of the Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity, broke down the door to an off-campus residence of a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and assaulted him and his friend. As well as assaulting the two men, the suspects broke various items inside the home and also vandalized the victim’s vehicle. A woman inside the residence told the officers she was not harmed but feared for her safety during the attack.
According to a police report from the incident, one of the victims stated that he believed that the home invasion was "retaliation from a fight that occurred between himself and a member of the Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity."
During that altercation, one of the victims from the home invasion hit a member of the Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity, but the victim in that incident is not one of the suspects in the home invasion.
Frank Shaw, who represents Holder and Slay said that tension has been growing between the two fraternities for some time.
"This has been going on for several years and it just slowly escalated," Shaw said. "Unfortunately, it has gotten to the point where these serious charges have been filed."
Jeff Pitchford, vice president of university and government relations at UCA, said Wednesday that disciplinary action regarding the fraternities or its members had not taken place.
"I spoke to Ronnie Williams, VP for student services, and we haven’t seen police reports. We know warrants were issued today and once we get the reports we’ll be able to evaluate the situation and look at our student handbook," Pitchford said. "We have to check with our rules and the processes we have in place to see what the next step would be for the university."
Pitchford said university police have not been involved in an investigation because incidents occurred off of the UCA campus.
"Because the prosecuting attorney felt like warrants were needed in this, we will be able to now get more information for ourselves to see what we’ll do," Pitchford said.
When asked if violent acts have occurred in the past between fraternities at UCA, Pitchford said, "There have been incidents in the past, but they’re getting few and far between. The message our greek services office has been sending out is that when this kind of stuff happens, we’re going to take the appropriate action. If that means suspending fraternities, kicking them off campus, suspending students — we’ll take whatever action needs to be taken."
The UCA student handbook states that student groups found to have committed physical harm to any persons are subject to disciplinary action ‘in addition to any punishment imposed by the court...’.
When asked Wednesday if either fraternity had been suspended under the handbook’s guideline which states that "groups involved in fairly serious policy violations are subject to immediate suspension of some or all activities while an investigation is being conducted," UCA’s greek life office deferred questions to Pitchford.
(Candie Beck is a staff writer and can be reached at 505-1238 or at email@example.com. Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)