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Four NY men jailed for hazing-linked death of fraternity pledge

The college freshman was hazed to death, and his frat brothers attempted to cover it up.
College freshman hazed to death.
College freshman hazed to death in 2013. Photo: Youtube/ABC

Four men involved in the 2013 death of a Pi Delta Psi freshman pledge were sentenced to jail Monday. The incident occured at a rented home in the Pocono Mountains, and so the fraternity was also banned from operation in Pennsylvania for 10 years and ordered to pay over $110,000 in fines.

Chun "Michael" Deng, who is described by some news outlets as being 18 and by others as being 19, was brutally hazed to death during an event for the Baruch College chapter of Pi Delta Psi, an Asian-American cultural fraternity. Baruch College is located in Manhattan.

According to a Monroe County Grand Jury report, the hazing ritual Deng took part in was called the "glass ceiling." The report states that he was "forced to wear a blindfold and a backpack that weighed approximately 30 pounds, was placed on his back and was repeatedly assaulted."

Fraternity brothers repeatedly tackled Deng to the ground until he fell unconscious. Deng "suffered multiple blows and impacts to his body including and sustaining a significant head injury documented at Wilkes-Barre Hospital," where he was admitted an hour or more after his sustained injuries.

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Deng was pronounced dead on Dec. 9, 2013 at 10:51 a.m. The report states that "no prompt medical attention was sought," and the delay in treatment "of 1-2 hours significantly contributed" to his death.

According to the Associated Press, prosecutors stated that fraternity members, in an attempted cover-up, "changed Deng’s clothes, did a Google search of his symptoms and hid banners and other fraternity memorabilia."

"Not one person out of 37 picked up a telephone and called an ambulance. I cannot wrap my head around it," Monroe County President Judge Margherita Patti-Worthington said. "So there's something greater going on here, and I think it's probably really prevalent. We see across the country these issues in fraternities."

Sentencing

The defendants sentenced Monday were Kenny Kwan, Raymond Lam, Sheldon Wong and Charles Lai, AP reports.

Kwan was sentenced to 12 to 24 months in county jail. Lam and Wong, who reportedly drove Deng to the hospital and as Kwan said in his initial police statement was "in charge of the entire weekend," were both sentenced to 10 to 24 months. Lai was sentenced to time served, as he priorly spent 342 days in jail because he was unable to make bail, TIME reports.

The four defendants charged Monday — all from Queens — were among the 37 total from Baruch College's chapter of Pi Delta Psi originally charged with crimes ranging from aggravated assault to third-degree murder.

Monday's defendants were initially charged with third-degree murder, reports The New York Times, but they pleaded guilty in May to reduced charges of voluntary manslaughter and hindering apprehension.

Pi Delta Psi

Pi Delta Psi, founded at Binghamton University in 1994, has 25 chapters in 11 states. On the Pi Delta Psi website, the organization’s mission reads: "…to spread Asian American Cultural awareness in an effort to empower the entire Asian American community. We are guided by four pillars; Academic Achievement, Cultural Awareness, Righteousness, and Friendship/Loyalty."

The organization has two chapters in PA that, accordingly, will be affected by the 10-year ban: Penn State and Carnegie Mellon.

Metro has contacted both chapters for a comment.

The Penn State chapter said it has no formal statement on the matter so far, but directed Metro to the Pi Delta Psi communications department, which was not available for immediate response.

The New York Times reports that Pi Delta Psi plans on appealing. The fraternity's lawyer, Wieslaw Niemoczynski, said that the hazing Deng faced was a "deviation and departure" from normal rituals, and that actions from individuals should not be pinned on the national organization. 

After sentencing, the fraternity issued a statement describing Deng as "the type of pledge who would likely become a model fraternity brother." The statement went on to say that its members "feel shame and dishonor that fraternity brothers could be so callous and inhumane."

Initial response, Baruch College

In the wake of Deng’s death in 2013, Baruch College banned Pi Delta Psi and suspended pledging activities for all fraternities and sororities.

"Baruch College continues to mourn the senseless and tragic death of one of its students, Chun Hsien (Michael) Deng, in 2013, which was the result of an unsanctioned, off-campus pledging activity that violated college polices," Baruch College said in a statement issued to Metro on behalf of President Mitchel B. Wallerstein.

In regards to the ban, the statement confirmed that "a moratorium remains in place on pledging and rush activities in all social fraternities and sororities, and the permanent ban of the Pi Delta Psi fraternity continues in effect."

"Sadly, deaths and injuries as a result of hazing remain a national problem, and the ramifications are frequently devastating," the statement concluded. "Our thoughts continue to be with Michael Deng’s family as justice is served for those who were involved."

Defendants issue apologies

"Mike is my only son and only child, and the truth that he is gone can’t be erased or wiped away no matter how hard I try," Deng’s mother, Mary Deng, said in a statement to the court on Monday. "I feel like I have no big words to explain this. How can somebody treat another person’s life like this? Like it’s a joke? My husband and I spent 18 years raising Michael to be a good person, a good son. And in a single night, all those years are suddenly gone."

The family's attorney, Douglas Fierberg, told the court that Mary still has trouble coming to terms with her son's death, so much so that she's made doctor's appointments "to check to see if Mike’s death is real," AP reports. "She essentially lives somewhere between dream and reality," Fierberg said.

The defendants issued apologies during Monday's court session.

"The guilt will never go away, and I think about Mr. Deng every day," Lam, who reportedly attempted suicide due to grief, said to the court.

"This is something I regret and I wish I could take back for Michael," Kwan stated.

"I see it over and over in my head," Wong said in his statement. "I should have called it off, stopped Kenny before the last tackle, gotten him to the hospital sooner. I never wanted anything like this to happen. Mike was my friend and I let him down and now he’s gone. And I have to live every day knowing that it’s me, it’s my fault."

 
 
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