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A fraternity and four of its former members were sentenced Monday in the 2013 hazing death of Chun Hsien “Michael” Deng, a Baruch College freshman, The New York Times reported.
A state judge banned Pi Delta Psi, an Asian-American fraternity, from operating in the state of Pennsylvania for 10 years — one of the few times a fraternity has been prosecuted in the hazing death of a pledge, according to The Times.
The fraternity was also ordered to pay more than $110,000 in fines. Pi Delta Psi said in a statement that its members “feel shame and dishonor that fraternity brothers could be so callous and inhumane.”
In the December pledging process by the frat, Cheng was blindfolded, made to wear a weighted backpack and tackled and pushed by frat members until he fell unconscious, investigators said. He was pronounced dead the following day.
After Cheng fell unconscious, the fraternity brothers changed his clothes and tried to revive him themselves. They searched the internet for phrases like “concussion can’t wake up.” A fraternity official told the brothers to hide anything with a fraternity logo on it. And an hour later, Deng was driven to the hospital — the brothers didn’t call an ambulance immediately because they believed it would be expensive, one brother told investigators.
The four fraternity brothers who were charged with the most serious crimes in the death were also sentenced on Monday. Kenny Kwan was sentenced to one to two years in prison. Raymond Lam and Sheldon Wong were both sentenced to 10 months to two years in prison. Charles Lai was sentenced to 342 days to 24 months and released on time already served.
“In that moment, I wasn’t there for Mike,” Mr. Wong said in a statement to the court. “I see it over and over in my head. 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.”
These four had initially been charged with murder, but in a plea deal they reduced their charges to voluntary manslaughter and hindering apprehension, according to The Times.
Prosecutors called the sentences “disappointing” — they had sought more prison time for the frat brothers — and said that the hazing rituals that contributed to Deng’s death were in wide use by the fraternity.
But Wieslaw Niemoczynski, the frat’s lawyer, said that the hazing was a “deviation and departure” from the usual initiation ceremonies. That isn’t any comfort to Deng’s parents.
“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,” said Deng’s mother, Mary Deng, in a statement to the court. “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.”
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