A grand jury has recommended charges against dozens of fraternity members in the death of a New York City college freshman during a hazing ritual in northeastern Pennsylvania, police said Monday.
The panel recommended third-degree murder charges against the Pi Delta Psi fraternity and five students at Baruch College in the Dec. 8, 2013, death of Chun "Michael" Deng. Thirty-two others face charges ranging from aggravated assault to hazing, Pocono Mountain Regional Police said in a statement.
Deng was blind-folded, weighted down with a backpack filled with 30 pounds of sand and forced to run a gauntlet during what police say was a brutal fraternity ritual called "glass ceiling." The 19-year-old freshman pledge was knocked unconscious, but police said the fraternity members waited at least an hour before taking him to the hospital with a severe brain injury, contributing to his death.
Monroe County District Attorney David Christine said shortly after Deng died that criminal charges would be filed at the conclusion of the police investigation. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.
"This is one big step to obtain justice for the family resulting from the tragic and preventable death of Michael," Doug Fierberg, an attorney representing the victim's family, told WBRE-TV.
About 30 members of the Pi Delta Psi fraternity had spent the weekend at a rented house in Tunkhannock Township, in the Pocono Mountains about 100 miles west of New York. Deng was one of four pledges.
An affidavit filed by a police detective said fraternity members did not call 911 after hurting him and instead took him inside, where they changed his clothes and Googled his symptoms before three members took Deng to the closest hospital, where he died a day later.
A forensic pathologist determined he had suffered repeated trauma to the head, torso and thighs, and "the forces were significant and severe," police said in a statement.
Baruch College has said it had no knowledge about the event. The college banned the fraternity and the national fraternity revoked its affiliation with the local chapter.
Fraternity officials did not immediately return an email seeking comment on the charges.