Lawyer: VSU student forced to admit role in hazing

Posted at 7:53 PM, May 01, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-02 00:05:28-04

PETERSBURG, Va. (WTVR)--Brandon Randleman, President of VSU student government, has been convicted of misdemeanor hazing charges and his lawyer said he was pressured into signing a plea agreement.

The charges stem from allegations that Randleman, age 22, and three other men injured another student during Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity events between August and November of 2012, Petersburg police said.

Randleman is not one of the men arrested after the recent deaths of two Virginia State University students as they tried to cross the Appomatox River. 

According to a signed affidavit, Randleman’s stepfather Milton Eley says his son was told to appear in court three days after the incident without an attorney.

The court document describes how Petersburg Commonwealth’s Attorney, Cassandra Conover, pressured Randleman to sign a plea agreement, saying, “If you don’t sign this, you are not graduating.”

Conover allegedly told him, “It’s time for you to man up.  Don’t be a punk.”

Eley also says Randlemanth insisted he didn’t commit the crime or did nothing wrong.

Randleman’s attorney, Joseph Morrissey, is asking how did this happen.

“How can somebody be charged, brought before a magistrate, arraigned and found guilty over 70 hours--and two of those days was a weekend--without benefit of Counsel,” said Joseph Morrissey.

Morrissey told CBS 6 that he’s asking the court to set aside Randleman’s guilty plea.

“I’m going to get to the bottom of this.  Something happened.  Something was going on. And there’s going to be people held accountable,” said Morrissey.

Morrissey says a special prosecutor from Chesterfield County has been appointed to handle the case, now set for May 23.

In a signed affidavit filed in the Petersburg General District court, the victim Shakeel Weeks, set the record straight.

“I want to make it abundantly clear that at no time, ever, has Brandon Randleman ever hazed me in any way, shape or form,” said Shakeel Weeks.  “Further, Mr. Randleman was never, at any time, present when I was allegedly hazed.”

CBS 6 tried to reach out to Petersburg Commonwealth’s Attorney Cassandra Conover for comment.  But she has not returned our phone call.