WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court Monday let stand a decision that Illinois' anti-hazing law, which makes it a crime in certain instances to 'ridicule' others, does not violate freedom of speech.
The court, without comment, declined to review a ruling of the Illinois Supreme Court that the law can be used against members of the Western Illinois University Lacrosse Club for allegedly 'hazing' a young player in an initiation ceremony that led to the student's death.
Nicholas Haben died of alcohol poisoning on Oct. 19, 1990, after going through 'Rookie Day' to become a member of the lacrosse club.
Mark Molzer and 11 others were charged with unlawfully giving alcohol to a minor, and with hazing, a misdemeanor punishable by a six-month prison sentence and a $500 fine.
The trial judge dismissed the hazing counts, finding that the anti- hazing statute -- which became law in 1901 -- was unconstitutionally overbroad in violation of the First Amendment and 14th Amendment.
The statute outlaws hazing that causes harm, and defines hazing as 'any pastime or amusement, engaged in by students or other people in schools, academies, colleges, universities, or other educational institutions...whereby such pastime or amusement is had for the purpose of holding up any student, scholar or individual to ridicule for the pastime of others.'
The state's highest court reinstated the hazing charges, saying while the statute 'may contain an inartful definition of hazing,' it does not violate free speech.
But the court said the statute must be interpreted in a limited way to ensure that it remains constitutional, and held that a trial court must prove 'recklessness, knowledge or intent' to do harm in order to obtain a conviction.NEWLN: ------NEWLN: 92-129 Mark T. Molzer vs. People of the state of Illinois