In December 2013, a student pledging for Pi Delta Psi at Baruch College died after enduring violent hazing by members of the fraternity. On a cold, early morning in the Poconos, he was blindfolded, made to wear a backpack weighted with sand, and was tackled and roughed up until he fell unconscious. He died the following day.
Thirty-seven people were charged. Four fraternity members were initially charged with third-degree murder. In May, they pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter and hindering apprehension. They were each sentenced to between one and two years in prison on Jan. 8.
In a move that seems increasingly common, the fraternity was also criminally charged. It was acquitted of the murder charge but has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault. It was sentenced last week to more than $110,000 in fines and banned from operating in Pennsylvania for 10 years. Pi Delta Psi has a single active chapter in Pennsylvania, which is located at Penn State.
In attempting to hold the organization responsible for actions of its members, prosecutors said that the hazing ritual that resulted in the student’s death was used widely by the fraternity. It is known as the “glass ceiling” and is intended to represent the plight of the Asian-American community. Pi Delta Psi is a primarily Asian-American fraternity.
The fraternity plans to appeal. It says that prosecutors unfairly blamed the fraternity for actions that were solely those of the individual members. Its attorney called the brutal hazing in this case a “deviation and departure” from the overall “glass ceiling” ritual.
Prosecutors are increasingly apt to file criminal charges for hazing
Whereas hazing injuries and death might once have been considered accidental, prosecutors are increasingly considering criminal charges in these cases.
You may be aware of the alcohol-related death of a Penn State student last year at Beta Theta Pi, which resulted in criminal charges against 18 fraternity members. Also, Penn State’s Alpha Chi Rho was criminally charged with alcohol-related offenses in October. Other criminal cases have been brought at Illinois University, Fresno State University and others, along with Baruch College.
“Go back a generation or two, and hazing was accepted conduct, part of the fraternity experience, part of the football experience,” the president of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys told the New York Times. “Now it’s no longer ‘boys will be boys.'”
If you are in a fraternity or sorority and find yourself caught up in a hazing incident gone wrong, you should seek out your own criminal defense attorney — and do so right away.