Charges coming in death of Baruch College student, prosecutor says

Kristin Thorne has the latest from Gramercy Park.
December 13, 2013 5:08:09 AM PST
A Pennsylvania prosecutor says charges are expected to be filed Friday in the death of a Baruch College student during a fraternity ritual.

Monroe County District Attorney David Christine says he won't decide on which charges to file until police finish their investigation into the death of 19-year-old Chun "Michael" Deng.

People travel to the Poconos to go skiing, or for a romantic getaway, but the way police describe it, the snow-covered property was the setting for the torture of a 19-year-old college freshman.

"People are going through traditions or rituals to go be part of a bigger group. But at no point are those rituals or traditions worth someone's life," said Chief Harry Lewis, of the Pocono Mountain Regional Police Department.

But it's where Police Chief Harry Lewis says 19-year-old Chun "Michael" Deng died of major brain trauma, at the hands of his would be fraternity brothers at Baruch College, where he was pledging the fraternity Pi Delta Psi.

According to the police affidavit, three fraternity members admitted Deng was playing a game called "Glass Ceiling".

He was "blindfolded and wearing a backpack" laden down with "20 pounds of sand."

"And have to get from one point to another point in the yard in the middle of the night. During this ritual the victim was knocked to the ground numerous times. Unfortunately he was injured during one of these episodes. He was taken into the house. He was not provided medical attention right away," Lewis said.

Instead, the police report says "Deng's clothes were changed while other[s] googled Deng's symptoms." They didn't get him to the hospital until two hours after he fell and hit his head.

Deng was one of four pledges to the Pi Delta Psi fraternity. About 30 fraternity members spent the weekend at the rented house in the Poconos.

"Police are still going through the connect-the-dot phases of this investigation," Christine told The Associated Press, but "there will be criminal charges filed."

At the Upper East Side residence hall where Deng lived, students heard about his death, but would not talk about it.

Baruch College has a zero tolerance policy regarding hazing and all fraternities and sororities are required to anti-hazing classes.

Baruch College has said it had no knowledge about the event.

Christine said it's not the first time that Pi Delta Psi has come to the Poconos.

"They've done this before, rented a place before in the Poconos," he said, calling it a "preplanned event where they rent a house, and plan a pledging ritual."

Baruch College statement:
Baruch College is saddened to confirm the recent death of Chun Hsien (Michael) Deng, a Baruch freshman, as reported to us by the president of the national fraternity Pi Delta Psi. The preliminary reports indicate that Michael died over the weekend while participating in an unsanctioned fraternity pledging event in the Poconos, PA. Baruch College had no knowledge of this event or that the fraternity was rushing a pledge class. Pi Delta Psi did not request permission nor were they approved by Baruch on this matter.

Baruch College has a zero tolerance policy regarding hazing. All fraternities and sororities on Baruch's campus are required to attend the College's orientation and training session at the beginning of the academic year, which includes anti-hazing training and literature. All attendees are required to sign statements that they understand and will abide by the College's policies regarding organizing a pledge class and anti-hazing protocols. Michael's death is a deeply painful reminder that no individual should ever be put into a position where his or her personal safety is in jeopardy. Our deepest sympathies go out to Michael's family and his friends both at Baruch and at home.

Along with its own internal review, Baruch is cooperating fully with law enforcement as this incident is investigated.