Friday, May 08, 2009

Utah State Sigma Nu Pleads Guilty In Connection with Death of Pledge

USU student sentences on charge related to fraternity death

By Ethan Thomas

LOGAN - One of the 12 Utah State University students charged in connection with the alcohol poisoning death of fraternity pledge Michael Starks was sentenced Monday in 1st District Court.

Grant Arthur Barney, 22, pleaded guilty last month to obstructing justice, a class B misdemeanor, and was sentenced to serve eight days in jail and pay a $1,025 fine. Barney will also be on probation for one year and will be required to perform 100 hours of community service.

Barney was originally charged with obstructing justice and one count of hazing, but the hazing charge was later dismissed.

Barney's attorney, Shannon Demler, told the Deseret News in March that Barney did not take part in the alleged hazing, but he did throw away some bottles of alcohol that were consumed the night of Starks' death.

Starks, 18, died after participating in an initiation ceremony for the then-USU chapter of Sigma Nu. The initiation involved Starks and another pledge being "kidnapped" by the Chi Omega sorority women. An affidavit of probable cause states that the pledges were stripped down to their boxers and painted in USU school colors.

Sometime during the activity, they began drinking, prosecutors say. They returned to the fraternity house already heavily intoxicated, and a few hours later, Starks was found unconscious and not breathing.

Starks was pronounced dead at a hospital shortly afterward.

Last month, another student, Sadie Green, 19, pleaded no contest to one count of hazing. Charges have been dropped against three of the 12 students originally charged in January.

Seven other USU students charged in the case have court dates scheduled in the coming months.

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