The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Report: Jon Hamm, star of ‘Mad Men,’ was arrested in college for brutally hazing another student

“Mad Men” actor Jon Hamm at an event at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History on March 27. (Mandel Ngan/Getty Images)
Placeholder while article actions load

As a fraternity member at the University of Texas more than two decades ago, “Mad Men” star Jon Hamm was arrested in connection with a violent hazing in which a pledge was beaten, dragged by a hammer and had his clothes set on fire, according to the Associated Press.

The actor, who was a 20-year-old sophomore at the time of the incident, was charged with hazing but not convicted. He instead received “deferred adjudication,” the AP reported, which under Texas law allows a case to be dismissed if the defendant successfully completes probation.

Representatives for Hamm did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hamm was, according to the San Antonio Light, one of seven people implicated in the November 1990 hazing, which led to the disbanding of the UT chapter of the Sigma Nu fraternity when a lawsuit was filed. Hamm was one of “the most serious offenders,” Travis County Attorney Ken Oden said at the time.

Hamm, according to the pledge, Mark Allen Sanders, became angry when he was unable to recite a list of details he was supposed to memorize about the fraternity members. He then set Sanders’s jeans on fire, pushed his face into the dirt and hit him with a paddle, the AP said, citing documents.

Hamm participated in the hazing “till the very end,” Sanders said. Sanders added that he needed medical care and eventually withdrew from the school.

The Travis County Clerk’s Office doesn’t make misdemeanor court documents available on its Web site. But a timeline of his case from the site shows that the lawsuit was filed in 1991, and a spokesman for the Travis County Sheriff told the San Antonio Express-News that an arrest warrant for Hamm was issued in 1993. The four cases against Hamm were dismissed in August of 1995, presumably when Hamm completed probation.

None of the records were sealed, according to the AP, but the incident went largely unknown because Hamm was not famous at the time. The charges first came to light when the celebrity tabloid Star Magazine reported them Wednesday.

Hamm attended UT for three semesters, from 1989 to 1990. Though he aspired to be an actor, his top priorities at the time “were getting laid and getting hammered,” he told W magazine in a 2008 interview.

He left the school after his father died, the same semester as the hazing incident, and eventually enrolled at the University of Missouri.

The news of the incident arose during the final season of “Mad Men,” where Hamm plays advertiser Don Draper. Now 44, Hamm has won a Golden Globe and multiple Emmy nominations. The news also comes on the heels of Hamm’s 30-day stint in rehab, where he sought treatment for alcoholism last month.