Kappa Alpha Psi Faces Hazing Accusations
MARYLAND – Harry Draughn Jr. filed a lawsuit over $2 million against Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and its member Jesse Stewart Jr. after allegedly being hazed during the fraternity’s spring initiation process.
The lawsuit filed on March 31 claims that Draughn, 45, was assaulted, paddled and beat with a cane by Stewart, who served as the dean of the intake process for the Hyattsville/Landover alumni chapter.
Stewart, 49, is a 21-year member of Prince George’s County Police Department and faces a penalty up to five years in prison on misdemeanor reckless endangerment charges, according to legal documents.
While off duty during the time of the allegations, Stewart’s been suspended from the department while the investigation is underway, according to Chief Mark Magaw.
“When one of our officers is accused of wrongdoing, we take those allegations seriously,” Magaw said in a statement. “The Prince George’s County Police Department holds our officers to high standards, whether they are on or off duty.”
Court documents state the hazing began in February, when Stewart’s garage allegedly became a place of smacking, hitting, caning and paddling Draughn and his line brothers.
Pledges were also brought inside Stewart’s home, where they rubbed lotion on body parts of the off-duty officer as he sat in a kitchen chair, according to the complaint.
Draughn’s suit claims he suffered emotional anguish and humiliation throughout the process, including times when he was allegedly required to do tasks around Stewart’s home in his underwear and rub the belly of Stewart with his bare hands.
“I think it’s just degrading,” Draughn said. “When we signed up for Kappa Alpha Psi, we signed documents saying there wouldn’t be any hazing.”
He was also allegedly asked inappropriate sexual questions by Stewart, who became a member of the Greek organization in 1991 through the Washington D.C. Alumni Chapter.
In September of 2014, the fraternity placed a moratorium on membership intake for both undergraduate and alumni chapters amid hazing issues, though it was lifted in January for graduate chapters.
When they lifted it, they did not change any policies or procedures,” Draughn’s attorney Jimmy Bell said. “That is mind-boggling. You admit that you have a problem and you don’t correct it, and then the very next month my client’s getting hazed.”
Stewart, the Kappa Alpha Psi headquarters in Philadelphia, the Kappa Alpha Psi Grand Polemarch (National President) William “Randy” Bates Jr. did not return phones calls seeking comment.
Draughn alleges that Stewart first hazed him in February when a cane was smacked on his “bottom,” though it was the March 23 incident that caused him to seek help.
“Since the beating on March 23, 2015, Plaintiff has had to sit on a pillow while
driving and is suffering from lower back pain, has not been able to sleep, and has felt depressed.”
Bell claims to have photos of injuries and text messages between Stewart and his client that he says they “can’t wait to show to the jury.”
“We never thought that we were paying $3,000 to join a gang,” he said. “That’s not what we signed up for.”
Draughn proceeded by contacting Bell, who is also the Maryland attorney of a $4 million lawsuit that was filed in January against Kappa Alpha Psi, its Baltimore alumni chapter and several members who participated in allegedly hazing his client Johnny Powell.
Bell is in fact a member of Kappa Alpha Psi himself, and the alleged hazing incidents have led him to litigate two cases that involve suing his own fraternity for millions of dollars. He says he’s still a proud life member and earned his fraternity membership in 1988.
“Here’s the difference between now and then: It is against the law,” he said. “I’m doing what’s right so hopefully they’ll still be around in the next 50 years. It’s better to take a [financial] hit and change your policies than to not exist anymore.”
Bell states he believes the fraternity’s hazing incidents are occurring due to poor leadership by Kappa Alpha Psi’s Grand Polemarch (National President) William “Randy” Bates Jr., saying he’s “responsible for what happened” to his clients.
“The reason that this happened is because the policy they have in place didn’t work,” Bell said on what he views as a lack of quality “supervising” and “training” from the organization.
He mentions that until better measures are put in place by leaders of the organization, injuries, deaths and lawsuits will only continue to happen.
“It’s a social organization,” Bell said. “Nobody should get hurt pledging.”