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By Casey Christie / The Californian
BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer email@example.com
A disposition was reached Tuesday in what's believed to be Kern County's first hazing case in which a fraternity pledge was beaten and suffered serious injuries.
Two of the three defendants -- Ryan Nichols and Philemon Lamont Norris -- each pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge and judgment was deferred for 18 months. If the two stay out of trouble and pay the required restitution, then the charge will be dismissed.
The third defendant, Deandre Tramaine Horn, pleaded no contest to misdemeanor battery and was sentenced by Kern County Superior Court Judge Lorna H. Brumfield to three years' probation and time served. He also has to pay restitution to the victim for out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a result of the crime.
Attorney Monica Bermudez said Norris, her client, just wanted a quick resolution so he can get on with his life. He plans on attending graduate school, she said.
"This has had a significant impact on his plans for the future," Bermudez said.
Each defendant was suspected of beating fraternity pledges who were Cal State Bakersfield students. Each of the defendants were also students or had attended the university at the time of the pledging.
Prosecutor David Silva said Horn received the harshest punishment because he was identified as being the pledgemaster and organized the activities that resulted in serious injuries to one pledge.
The three were initially arrested in mid-2011 on suspicion of felonies including torture, conspiracy and assault with a deadly weapon, and misdemeanor hazing. The District Attorney's office only filed the misdemeanor charge after what Silva said was a thorough examination of the "totality of circumstances."
Attorney Michael C. Lukehart, who represented Nichols, said his client is pleased with the disposition, and Lukehart said the DA's office did the right thing by not filing the felonies.
"I think the DA's office has actually exercised its gatekeeper function appropriately in this case," he said.
Lukehart said Nichols has graduated from CSUB, and even showed him his diploma Tuesday morning. The attorney said he'll be sending Nichols a congratulatory gift.
As part of an initiation process, Brent McClanahan Jr. and three other pledges of the non-university sanctioned Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity were beaten with canes, whips and paddles, punched in the ribs, slapped for smiling, shot with a BB gun and drenched with flour and chocolate, according to police reports. The hazing occurred in early 2011.
McClanahan Jr. collapsed in late April 2011 and was taken to a hospital, court records show. Doctors found he suffered herniated and ruptured discs in his back that required surgery.