Suspects identified in Pennsylvania hazing death of NYC student - officials

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 27, 2014 5:54 PM

By Joe McDonald

East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Suspects have been identified in the death of a college student in a Pennsylvania fraternity hazing incident but authorities are waiting for forensic medical reports before making arrests, officials said on Thursday.

Charges may not be filed until May in the death of Chen "Michael" Deng, a freshman at New York's Baruch College who died from brain injuries in December following a hazing game called the "glass ceiling," officials said.

Each of the 30 Pi Delta Psi fraternity brothers who traveled to the Poconos area in Pennsylvania for the hazing could face possible arrest, said Tunkhannock Township Police Chief Harry Lewis.

However, a source close to the investigation said the actual number was likely to be closer to 20 members of Pi Delta Psi, an Asian-American cultural fraternity.

Law enforcement officials said they are waiting for forensic medical reports from an expert on brain injuries before filing charges.

E. David Christine Jr., district attorney for Monroe County,

has said he wants all the arrests to be made at the same time.

Pennsylvania has an anti-hazing law, and any of the fraternity brothers could face that charge, a misdemeanor, for being there if they knew what was going on, authorities said.

More serious potential charges could be involuntary manslaughter, punishable by up to five years in prison, as well as filing false reports to police and tampering with evidence.

Some students allegedly tried to cover up the hazing incident by hiding fraternity memorabilia at the weekend rental home before police arrived, according to court documents.

Deng, 19, had traveled to Tunkhannock Township, about 75 miles from New York City, for the weekend and took part in the pledging ritual, authorities said shortly after his death.

Deng, a finance student who graduated from New York City's prestigious Bronx High School of Science, was blindfolded and carrying a 20-pound bag of sand on his back during the pre-dawn hazing, according to court records.

Surrounded by fraternity members calling out his name, Deng was supposed to reach a person saying his name while others tried to block his path, push him and knock him to the ground, according to the records.

Deng fell, unresponsive, after being struck, the records show. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he died on December 9.

Last month, the local coroner's office ruled Deng's death was a homicide caused by severe head injuries.

Following Deng's death, the college ordered the fraternity off campus and permanently severed all ties for what it said was an "unsanctioned" event in the Poconos.

The fraternity chapter was also cut off from its national office, which said it forbids hazing.

Baruch has begun disciplinary hearings against students who were at the rental house in the Poconos, an attorney for one of the students said.

Baruch spokeswoman Christina Latouf confirmed there had been at least one recent hearing involving a student.

"The Baruch process is still underway with nothing to report at this time," Latouf said.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Dan Grebler)