Two women plead guilty in Penn State hazing case

mcarroll@centredaily.comMay 24, 2013 

— Two young women pleaded guilty Thursday for their roles in assaulting a Penn State freshman in a hazing ritual last year.

Bianca Jeanty, who prosecutors said was the primary aggressor, told a Centre County judge she used “poor judgment” when she attacked the young woman.

Jeanty and her co-defendant, Felicia Ragsdale, who also took part in the hazing, pleaded guilty during scheduled pretrial conferences. Each was sentenced to serve probation for their role in the attack.

The pleas come a week after Jeanty and Ragsdale testified during the trial for a third defendant in the case, Hanif Johnson, who prosecutors said acted as the ringleader, egging on the hazing.

A jury found Johnson, a former Penn State student-athlete, not guilty on the most serious charges of simple assault and conspiracy to commit simple assault, but convicted him on summary harassment charges.

Centre County prosecutors have alleged the three planned hazing rituals as part of the pledging process for Omega Essence, a “little sisters” group with the fraternity Omega Psi Phi, which isn’t a recognized student organization on the Penn State campus.

Johnson was a member of the fraternity while Jeanty and Ragsdale were involved with the “little sisters,” also called an auxiliary group, according to police.

All three were indefinitely expelled by Penn State, and Ragsdale and Johnson were held from graduating in 2012. A Penn State spokesperson said at that time that the three could apply for reinstatement after one year.

Spokeswoman Lisa Powers said Thursday that Ragsdale and Johnson were permitted to graduate in the spring and that Jeanty was cleared to return to school.

Jeanty’s attorney, William “Tim” Fleming, said Thursday that his client will again attend Penn State this fall.

“She has always been open, forthright and honest,” Fleming said. “I think she now realizes she made a terrible mistake. She went too far, got caught up in it.”

Prosecutors said Jeanty was the main assailant during the hazing — slapping, punching and kicking then-Penn State freshman Aysa Trowell until the young woman was bloodied and injured.

Trowell sought medical attention after the assault, stopped the pledging process and eventually transferred from Penn State.

Jeanty pleaded guilty Thursday to a misdemeanor simple assault charge, while other counts were dismissed.

“It was poor judgment on my call,” Jeanty told Judge Jonathan Grine. “I didn’t realize it at the moment, but looking back on it.”

Simple assault charges were dropped against Ragsdale, who pleaded guilty to counts of disorderly conduct and harassment.

Prosecutors said assault charges against Ragsdale were dropped because she cooperated with authorities, testified in Johnson’s trial and was not the main aggressor in the beating.

Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.

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