Jon Hamm Was Arrested In College For What He Calls A 'Bummer' Hazing Incident That Left A Frat Pledge Brutally Injured & Traumatized

He still shows no remorse decades later.

Jon Hamm Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

Jon Hamm wasn't always the lovable actor we know him as today. In details obtained by Star Magazine, before acting, the Mad Men star was a sophomore in college and a member of a fraternity that treated one of its pledges harshly, to say the least.

Fraternities normally get a bad rap for hazing and the treatment of their "brothers," and his frat was no different. Over 30 years ago, Hamm committed an act of assault that he has not been able to live down.


Jon Hamm was arrested for causing a student to have a fractured spine and almost losing a kidney.

Mark Allen Sanders was a junior at the University of Texas at Austin pledging to Sigma Nu, to which the sophomore Hamm was a member. Sanders was a “brilliant honors student,” according to the DailyMail.

In the early hours of November 10, 1990, the fraternity summoned Sanders to the house. “It’s going to be a long night,” Hamm said to him before two hours of tormenting began.

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All of the pledges had to memorize facts off a six-page list, the fraternity dubbed the “bulls--t list.” When it was Sanders’ turn for quizzing, he faltered on Hamm’s nicknames, which included “MC Hammer” and “Young Bobby.” According to Sanders, Hamm got “mad, I mean really mad.”

As punishment, he and other fraternity members beat him with a paddle. “I’m hurting bad, I mean being hit right where the kidney is, it’s killing me,” Sanders said in a 1991 transcript with investigators from Travis County’s Attorney’s Office, via Daily Mail Online.

After the paddling, they lifted him by his underwear and swung him back and forth. “I was hurting really bad, and I remember I was looking up at the ceiling, and I was gritting my teeth and squinting my eyes ... it was sawing, and it was hurting,” Sanders said.


Unfortunately, that wasn’t the last of it. The fraternity had three small compartments chiseled into the foundation called “the pit,” “the hole” and “the grave.” They put Sanders into “the pit,” where Hamm shoved his face into the ground as he was forced to do push-ups.

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Someone even stood on his back during his confinement; it’s unclear whether it was Hamm or another fraternity member. Then Hamm lit Sanders’ pants on fire, disallowing him to pat it out, instead making him blow out the flames.


The final incident occurred when they led him to the “party room.” Hamm took a hammer and hooked its claw on Sanders’ testicles, walking him around the room for “at least a minute.”

At this point, Sanders fled to a friend’s room for safety. He showed his injuries to fellow students, later claiming to have suffered nerve damage to his ribs, a lineal spinal fracture, and kidney spasms.

When his mother caught wind of what happened, she reported it to the college’s authorities, which prompted a police investigation. In 1993, when Hamm was identified as the ringleader, he was arrested.

Unfortunately, the hazing charge didn’t stick, and Hamm got off with just probation. He left the college and returned home without obtaining a degree. Three other members pled guilty and were sentenced to 15 to 30 days in jail, but they were allowed to do community service instead.


Sanders sued the fraternity, but both parties agreed to dismiss the case, suggesting they settled out of court. Subsequently, the fraternity chapter was disbanded.

In 2018, Hamm showed little remorse following the story’s breaking.

In an interview with Esquire, when questioned about the incident, he offered no apology and claimed that the information revealed in court documents wasn't entirely true. From the moment the subject had been brought up, the interviewer was made aware that it was a touchy subject.

“I wouldn’t say it’s accurate. Everything about that is sensationalized. I was accused of these things I don’t... It’s so hard to get into it. I don’t want to give it any more breath. It was a bummer of a thing that happened. I was essentially acquitted. I wasn’t convicted of anything. I was caught up in a big situation, a stupid kid in a stupid situation, and it’s a f--king bummer. I moved on from it,” Hamm said. He ultimately chalks it up as "a weirdness" that he went through in college as he was "trying to figure things out."


A “bummer” for Hamm was a much more serious ordeal for the victim. Sanders left UT Austin and resumed his studies at Texas Christian University. He didn’t let the incident deter him from his education and received a degree in medicine and law. Today, he lives with his wife and two children in Fort Worth, where he practices as a doctor and an attorney specializing in medical malpractice and personal injury. 

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Ethan Cotler is a writer living in Boston. His writing covers entertainment and celebrity news.