Hazing charge is dropped against VSU’s student prez
By James Peacemaker, Jr., Managing Editor
May 28, 2013, 17:44
JAMES PEACEMAKER JR./HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Brandon Randleman, center, is shown during Virginia State University’s graduation ceremony May 12.
PETERSBURG — A hazing charge against the president of Virginia State University’s Student Government Association was withdrawn Thursday.
Brandon Randleman appeared in General District Court with his lawyer, Joseph D. Morrissey, who pushed to have his guilty plea withdrawn and the case dismissed by the judge.
Shawn Gobble, an assistant commonwealth’s attorney in Chesterfield who took over as prosecutor after Petersburg Commonwealth’s Attorney Cassandra Conover recused herself, agreed to set the charges aside, or nolle prosequi, but told the judge that he wanted to keep open the possibility of charging him again if other evidence came forward later or witnesses became cooperative.
The judge agreed to reverse the guilty plea and allow the prosecutor to withdraw the charge.
Randleman, who graduated earlier this month and appeared in court Thursday in a gray suit and bow tie, appeared happy with the decision to drop the misdemeanor charge.
Randleman has said that Conover pressured him to plead no contest and told him that he wouldn’t graduate if he didn’t. Morrissey said Conover told Randleman and the three others -- Leroy Amankrah, 22, Christopher Barnes-Prevot, 23, and William Nicholson, 28 -- that if they pleaded guilty, they would be on probation for 30 days, have to obey conditions imposed by VSU and the charges would be formally dropped in May.
The three who did not contest the charges had their charges dropped May 10, two days before graduation.
But earlier this month, Morrissey filed a motion to have Randleman’s plea thrown out and included an affidavit signed by Shakeel Weeks, the 21-year-old junior who was the alleged victim in the hazing by members of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
“I want to make it abundantly clear that at no time, ever, has Brandon Randleman ever hazed me in any way, shape or form. Further, Mr. Randleman was never, at any time, present when I was allegedly hazed,” Weeks wrote in the affidavit.
Weeks said he met Randleman only a few times, once when Randleman lent him a tie and a few other times related to the SGA.
“Brandon was polite, courteous and very professional,” Weeks wrote.
Weeks said he was “shocked” when he saw the warrant.
“I can provide no reasonable explanation as to why my name was used on a warrant charging Mr. Randleman with hazing,” he said.
The hazing charges were filed in April in relation to alleged incidents from August to November 2012 and are unrelated to the recent drowning deaths of two VSU students.