Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cal Poly SAE's Get Jail Time for Hazing Death

2 ex-Calif. frat men get jail time in hazing death

San Luis Obispo, CA (Associated Press) --Two former fraternity members at California Polytechnic State University will serve jail terms for the fatal hazing of an 18-year-old pledge whose blood-alcohol content was equivalent to surgical anesthesia.

The San Luis Obispo County district attorney's office said Zacary Ellis, 23, and Haithem Ibrahim, 21, pleaded no contest to misdemeanor hazing on Tuesday.

Ellis must serve 120 days in county jail and Ibrahim 45 days. Both were placed on three years of probation.

Carson Starkey died in December 2008 after drinking large amounts of rum, Everclear and other alcoholic drinks within 90 minutes in a hazing ritual by the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. The freshman from Austin, Texas, had a blood-alcohol level between 0.39 percent and 0.44 percent.

"I pray you will be able to grow from this experience and find ways to use your lives to help stop such irresponsible and immature behavior that hides behind so-called tradition," the victim's father, Scott Starkey, told the defendants in court.

His mother, Julia Starkey, said she was surprised when Carson told her he was planning to join a fraternity but felt comforted he'd have friends.

"Carson told us he was looking for brotherhood," Julia Starkey said. "Would you call the way you treated him brotherhood? Your actions and your choices to not help him that night are memories you and I will have to live with the rest of our lives."

Ellis' attorney, Richard Conway, said the case was a tragedy for everyone involved. "Mr. Ellis grieves deeply for Carson Starkey," he said.

In a brief statement, Ibrahim told the judge that he was "deeply sympathetic" for Starkey's loss and his "thoughts and prayers go out" to his family.

When Starkey passed out after consuming the alcohol, including 151-proof Everclear, in the "Brown Bag Night" ritual, several frat members put him in a car to take him to a hospital — removing his pledge pin so he wouldn't be associated with the fraternity. He then began vomiting so they took him back to the house and put him to bed, police said.

Police said the members checked on him until everyone went to bed about 2 a.m. When he was found unresponsive the next morning, fraternity members shooed other pledges out of the house before police and paramedics arrived, authorities said.

Charges are pending against two other fraternity members who are accused of purchasing the alcohol.

In the wake of the freshman's death, the university suspended the fraternity and held five retreats with Greek leaders to discuss safe and responsible behavior.

Officers of Greek organizations also must sign agreements holding them personally responsible if a member of the group violates a state law. The university also deferred the rush period from a freshman's first semester to the second to give him time to adjust to his new surroundings.
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