Virginia Tech, VMI at center of two federal lawsuits for alleged hazing incidents

Virginia Tech, VMI at center of two federal lawsuits for alleged hazing incidents
Two prestigious Virginia military training programs are at the center of federal lawsuits for alleged hazing incidents. (Source: WDBJ)

LEXINGTON, Va. (WDBJ7) -- Two prestigious Virginia military training programs are at the center of federal lawsuits for alleged hazing incidents.

At Virginia Military Institute, the board of visitors, two school officials, and five current or former cadets are being sued by an anonymous John Doe plaintiff for an alleged incident in January of 2018.

The former cadet was in his first year at VMI when, according to court filings, he and his roommate were waterboarded and forced to strip down partially naked and wrestle each other in what is known as a “rat mission” or form of cadet training.

“Nothing that occurred that night is consistent with any type of military training that I’ve gone through or that I’d observed,” said Tim Furin, John Doe’s Attorney who served 22 years in the military both as an Army Ranger and JAG Corps lawyer.

“Our client’s bringing the lawsuit so he can be a catalyst for change so that no other cadet has to suffer through what he suffered through to get an education at VMI.”

Furin and his client are not only alleging sexual assault or harassment, but also that Doe’s Title IX rights were violated by VMI.

According to court filings, three of the upper classman cadets involved were reprimanded by the school, but what their punishment was is not clear.

Furin says the Institute does not uphold hazing standards equally for male and female cadets: “If two female cadets had been forced to take off their shirts and wrestle in front of their male assailants for their freedom, I’m sure the Institute would have handled this in a very different manner.”

John Doe has since left VMI, and the school denies any wrongdoing.

“We have very robust policies concerning hazing, concerning sexual misconduct, there are procedures there for cadets to report that,” said VMI Spokesman Col. Stewart MacInnis.

Meanwhile at Virginia Tech, a student and former member of the Corps. of Cadets is suing the University and its president, Tim Sands.

Darrien Brown says the University denied his right to due process and punished him without a fair hearing for his alleged role in a hazing incident in October of 2019.

Brown is a Senior who was set to graduate this May and commission into the Army as an Officer.

That all changed when he was suspended for two semesters and his ROTC scholarship was revoked along with his privileges to join the military.

The suit against Tech claims Brown was reprimanded for being one of “around 21” junior and senior cadets leading a blood pinning ceremony where 20 sophomores voluntarily took part in calisthenics before having Bravo company pins placed on their shirts and tapped.

Court filings claim the ceremony was conducted “just as it has been for many years.”

A Virginia Tech spokesman says the school stands behind its student conduct policies and procedures and that it believes “when all sides of an issue are ultimately heard, its procedures and outcomes will be upheld.”

Montgomery County Commonwealth's Attorney Mary Pettitt says the sheriff's office is currently investigating the alleged incident Virginia Tech, and when that is complete her office will determine whether or not it will bring state charges against any individuals possibly involved.

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