Text by Kelly Glista, Hartford Courant; video by Mike Magnoli, FOX CT
WEST HARTFORD — A University of Hartford student is facing an assault charge for his alleged involvement in hazing a younger student during initiation into an “underground” fraternity.
According to a warrant for his arrest, George Sinclair, 21, allegedly served as “Assistant Pledge Master” for the off-campus fraternity Phi Delta Theta, which has not been associated with the university for several years.
A freshman at the university went to police in November, saying that after being recruited to the fraternity he had been the victim of several hazing incidents. The student alleged that he and the other pledges were forced to strip down to their underwear and tread water in the middle of a cold pond, while clapping their hands, for 20 minutes, the warrant states.
The student further alleged that he and his fellow recruits were ordered to answer questions about the fraternity during meetings, and if they answered incorrectly, they were subjected to punishments such as having to hold a “plank” position with their elbows resting on the sharp edges of bottle caps or to put lit cigarettes out on their tongues and then swallow them.
According to the warrant, the student told police that during one of these meetings, a drunken Sinclair arrived and began yelling at the pledges to recite fraternity information. Sinclair allegedly poked the students in the chest with the butt end of a golf club while they answered.
The student told police that when he answered a question incorrectly, Sinclair swung the club at him like a baseball bat, striking him in the chest with the shaft of the club. The student, who identified himself as Muslim, claimed he fell to the ground and was “surrounded by fraternity brothers who spit on him, poured liquor on him, cursed at him, and stated something to the effect of ‘look he’s praying to Mecca,'” the warrant states.
When interviewed by police, Sinclair said that on the night of the alleged assault he arrived at the house and found multiple people in the basement. He admitted that he used a golf club, holding the shaft horizontally with both hands, to push people toward the exit and poked the student with the butt end of the club, but said he had not intended to harm anyone, the warrant states.
Police spoke to several other fraternity members who admitted that freshmen were subjected to certain “initiation activities,” such as cleaning or running errands, but denied any hazing or abuse, according to the warrant. A few of the other freshmen pledges did not respond to police requests for interviews, or refused to cooperate with the investigation, the warrant states.
According to the warrant, even though some details of the student’s complaint were not corroborated, police found probable cause to conclude that he was “subjected to some form of hazing by George Sinclair … including an assault.”
A university spokesman said the fraternity is not authorized by, affiliated with or sanctioned by the University of Hartford and the alleged incidents occurred at an off-campus house.
Sinclair turned himself in to police on March 13. He has been released on bail and is scheduled to appear in court on March 27.
The university spokesman said that Sinclair is a commuter student and that generally, the university allows the judicial process to proceed before deciding whether a student will face university sanctions.