Hazing lawsuit against McDonogh abruptly dismissed

June 21, 1995|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Sun Staff Writer

A lawsuit against the McDonogh School by a former student who was bound and abused in a March 1994 hazing incident was dismissed in midtrial yesterday by a Baltimore County judge.

Before the case was abruptly ended, John Richard Working, who was a freshman at the time and a son of the school's football coach, told the Circuit Court jury of the hazing and his subsequent anxiety attacks.

He said he was called to a McDonogh senior's hotel room in Orlando the last night of a preseason practice trip with the school's baseball team. Once there, he said, he realized that he was to be hazed and was grabbed by his testicles and dragged back as he tried to flee.

"I was sat down in a chair," the 17-year-old said. "I had my legs tied to the legs of the chair, my arms tied behind the back of the chair with a belt. I was gagged with a dirty sock and blindfolded with a sock."

The group of five or six upperclassmen then poured shaving cream and lotions on him and shaved a square in his hair, while another wrote an epithet into his chest with a ballpoint pen, he said. Despite the clumsy blindfold, he said he saw a player urinate in a cup and another pour it down his neck.

Although he felt humiliated, he said he didn't tell his parents -- even though his father was on the trip. But two days after their return, he and his older brother, Michael Ryan Working, lay in wait in the locker room, after a game March 22, 1994, for the player he said poured the urine.

"I went berserk, I snapped, I punched him," John Working testified.

Both brothers were expelled from the school days later and their father soon quit, moving to Mount St. Joseph High School. Juvenile charges against John Working were dismissed, while brother Michael, then 18, received probation before judgment in September on a guilty plea to battery.

On cross-examination yesterday by Neal M. Brown, an attorney for McDonogh, John said his anxiety attacks -- the injury on which his damage claim against McDonogh was based -- followed not only the hazing, but the attack on the other youth, his expulsion and the criminal charges.

Because the anxiety attacks couldn't be entirely linked to the hazing, Judge J. Norris Byrnes granted a verdict for the defense, throwing out the lone charge of negligence by the school for purportedly failing to supervise the students.

Both John and his mother, Carole Working, declined comment on the judge's ruling, which could be appealed.

But their attorney, Stephen R. Tully, said they would not appeal because they are satisfied that "there will no longer be any hazing at McDonogh -- and all the other private schools who've watched what happened. This will never happen to another kid."

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