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Fifth and final player in hazing case charged with misdemeanor

By Tori Dobleske

On Friday, March 22, the open criminal case against Benjamin Pettway, the final of the five Wheaton College football players involved in the hazing case of Charles Nagy, was closed. The sentencing documents indicate that, per a plea agreement, the state dismissed all pending felony charges and Pettway entered a rare “Alford plea” to the Class C misdemeanor of disorderly conduct.

An Alford Plea is a rarely-used type of plea in which the defendant pleads “guilty” to the charges but does not admit guilt. In entering an Alford plea, a defendant acknowledges that the prosecution has enough evidence to lead to a conviction, but retains their stance that they are not guilty of the charged crime. By doing so, Pettway continued to assert his innocence to even the disorderly conduct charge for which he was found guilty.  The final sentencing order notes the state’s objection to the characterization of Pettway’s plea as an Alford plea, but the judge found a “factual basis” for the plea and sentenced Pettway accordingly.

Judge Brian Telander formally sentenced Pettway to 50 hours of community service, which the judge acknowledged Pettway had already served at Wheaton College, and one month of court supervision for the Class C misdemeanor. According to the Daily Herald, the judge deemed Pettway the “least culpable” out of the five originally charged football players and stated Pettway’s charges amount legally to little more than a traffic ticket.  The judge indicated that the case would be closed upon payment of court costs and fees.

Wheaton College, which was also named in a civil suit along with Pettway and other individual defendants, has since settled with Nagy. In response to the suit by Nagy for $50,000 for injuries he claimed to have sustained during the incident, Pettway has filed a countersuit according to the Daily Herald. A hearing on Nagy’s motion to dismiss the counterclaims is scheduled to take place on May 15. Wheaton Athletics staff and Administration declined to comment further.

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