Saturday, May 23, 2009

U. Deleware SAM charged with hazing

Fraternity charged with hazing
Civil suit filed regarding death of Brett Griffin

By IRA PORTER, The News Journal

The Delaware Attorney General's office has charged University of Delaware fraternity Sigma Alpha Mu with hazing in connection with the death of former student Brett Griffin.

Spokesman Jason Miller said the misdemeanor charge was filed May 14, but the fraternity was served May 19.

The charge comes a week after Griffin's parents, Timothy and Julie Griffin, filed a wrongful death civil suit against that national chapter of Sigma Alpha Mu.

Griffin, 18, died after an off-campus party in November. The civil suit also accuses the fraternity of hazing. It alleges that Griffin participated in a pledge and was pressured into drinking an excessive amount of Southern Comfort. Fraternity brothers did not call for medical assistance for hours, the suit alleges, but waited until Griffin's lips turned blue.

Neither the Attorney General's office nor the University of Delaware would comment on the new charge. Newark police could not be reached for any information on the case.

In March, Newark police charged six students mostly with misdemeanors for providing alcohol to minors and underage possession and consumption of alcohol. One of the six students, Michael J. Bassett, 20, of Great Neck, N.Y., who was identified in court papers as Griffin's "big brother," was named as a defendant in the civil lawsuit.

Police also charged Bassett with several felonies: criminal solicitation, providing alcohol to a minor, possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, conspiracy and maintaining a dwelling for drug sales.

Police found 120 grams of marijuana, $90 cash, a scale, smoking paraphernalia, plastic baggies in a drawer at Bassett's home. They also found a list of people who owed money.

Other students named as defendants in the civil suit are Jason M. Aaron of Melville, N.Y., the fraternity chapter president; Daniel Z. Troper of Short Hills, N.J., the chapter vice president; Matthew P. Siracusa of Florida, N.Y., and Daniel P. Okin of Creeskill, N.J., who were both identified as pledge masters.

The civil lawsuit said that Griffin, of Kendall Park, N.J., went to a home on Annabelle Street, rented by several members of the fraternity, pledged, and was assigned big brothers. After that Griffin and others went to another home on Annabelle Street rented by fraternity members.

According to court documents under age pledges were instructed to consume a "family drink." The suit states that "the family drink is particularly deadly because of the unavoidable association between belonging and finishing."

Around 3 a.m., Griffin was observed to have pale lips and emergency officials were called. He was transported to Christiana Hospital where he died of acute alcohol poisoning.

The University of Delaware was not named in the civil suit or charged by the attorney general's office. School officials have previously said they are waiting to see the outcome of a police investigation before deciding whether to take action against students.

The school and the national governing body of Sigma Alpha Mu indefinitely suspended the chapter after Griffin's death. According to the student code of conduct, students who host of attend off-campus events that include alcohol and drugs may be punished when they are found to have broken the law. It also gives UD officials the right to expel or suspect students facing charges, specifically concerning violence or the sale or manufacture of drugs.

[An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the new charge was a felony. It is a misdemeanor.]