Fiji Incident Treated As Homicide CaseBy Douglas E. Heimburger
Associate News Editor
Boston authorities are continuing to investigate the fraternity incident that claimed the life of Scott S.Krueger '01.
Krueger died Monday night after spending three days in a coma at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Suffolk County Medical Examiners said Krueger died from alcohol poisoning of the brain and lungs and from choking on his own vomit.
The multiple causes of death are not uncommon given the level of alcohol poisoning, said Arnold N. Weinberg, director of the medical department. "The alcohol itself can have a whole variety of effects on the nervous system," he said. These effects can include paralysis of the respiratory system.
Investigators from the Boston Police homicide department and Suffolk County prosecutors continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding Krueger's death at Phi Gamma Delta, according to Boston Police Sergeant Detective Margot Hill.
"We're just trying to, like in any investigation, gather all the facts we can about the incident,"said JamesBorghesani, a spokesman for Suffolk County District Attorney Ralph C. Martin II. No criminal charges have yet been filed against anyone in the case.
However, Borghesani said that Martin does plan to file charges against fraternity members who made alcohol available to a minor. He refused to comment further due to the nature of the investigation.
According to the Massachusetts General Laws, serving alcohol to a minor can be punished by a fine of up to $2,000 or imprisonment for up to six months.
"Usually it ends up as a monetary fine"or probation, Borghesani said.
Investigators are looking into the cause of death as well as whether the fraternity attempted to conceal information after the fact, The Boston Globe reported yesterday.
Timothy M. Burke, an attorney who represents several of Fiji's members, refused to comment. However, he told the Globe "Idon't believe anyone thought they were subject to a criminal investigation at that juncture."
Fiji may lose dormitory license
As a result of the events that lead to Krueger's death, Fiji may lose its license to operate a dormitory at 28 The Fenway.
As police and medical units responded to Krueger Friday night, they discovered debris blocking an exit corridor on the second floor and a bicycle and debris blocking a basement exit, according to police reports. In addition, the fraternity as a whole was cited for serving alcohol to a minor.
The fraternity, and specifically Daniel A. Hermann '99, who holds the license, will be required to respond to the citations at a hearing of the Boston Licensing Board on Oct. 14, said Ellen Rooney, who chairs the board.
The citations "look much more serious since now it involves a homicide,"Rooney said. "The idea of someone going into a coma from alcohol consumption and dying - that's more serious than a loud party."
As a result of the license hearing, the board can choose to warn the fraternity, put the fraternity on probation, suspend normal privileges, or revoke the licenses.
Fraternity, MIT may face lawsuits
The legal questions of who may be liable for Krueger's death have yet to be answered.
"Anybody that has any involvement with the fraternity from the national itself through the house corporation, the local chapter, down to individual members could be sued," said Thomas R. Henneberry, director of insurance and legal affairs for the Institute.
"There's nothing that MITcan do to stop someone from suing us on any issue," Henneberry said. "If someone has an issue on which they want to file suit they certainly can do so."
Fiji has history of problems
This incident is not the first time that Fiji has been reported to the Licensing Board by the Boston Police.
In February, Boston Police found that Fiji had served alcohol to minors and had blocked the second floor rear stairwell and fire exit with debris. The police referred the case to the licensing board.
In a three-page letter to the licensing board, Fiji President Jonathan P. Loflin '98 stated that blocking exits "was not intentional and the members of the fraternity fully recognize the error of such obstruction."
The Licensing Board served Fiji with a warning for the incident.
In February 1996, officers responded to Fiji on a report of a loud party. Officer John M. Johnson described the scene in his report, calling it the "largest drinking party this officer has ever seen; there was open containers of beer everywhere and there was alcohol dripping down the stairs."
Another officer who responded to that party, Sgt. Joseph K. McNuff, said that "persons attempt[ed] to stop the police acting as agents of the licensing board" and that no one claimed to be in charge of the party.
After the event, Sgt. John Devaney of the Boston Police's Community Service Office wrote "The Phi [Gamma] Delta Fraternity has been a chronic problem for the police of this district and the Fenway community,"adding that his office had received "numerous complaints" about the fraternity from nearby residents.
The Interfraternity Council took action against the fraternity, banning alcohol at its parties for a period of at least two months. As a result of the IFC's action, the Licensing Board only issued a warning to Fiji.
City Council plans hearing
As a result of Krueger's death, the Boston City Council has scheduled an Oct. 9 discussion on underage binge drinking.
"This is obviously one tragedy that has brought a larger tragedy to light," said Brian J. Honan, a councillor of the city, who chairs the Council's committee on college and university relations.
One issue that the council will study is further limiting access to kegs at fraternity events. "Once you get a keg into a house party there's really no controlling who has access to it,"Honan said.
Under the current rules of the Licensing Board, deliveries of kegs or cases of beer are prohibited to fraternities unless they are intended "for the personal use of the person ordering the alcoholic beverages."
Because those delivering kegs have already travelled to the fraternity, they are unlikely to check for proof of age, said Councilor at Large Stephen J. Murphy in the Globe.
Alumni own house, MIThas lein
The alumni of Fiji own the fraternity house located at 28 The Fenway. The alumni own the Malcolm Cotton Browncorporation, and the corporation holds legal title to the fraternity house.
The fraternity house is officially valued at $489,500, of which $255,000 is the value of the building itself and the rest is the value its Back Bay lot.
Records from the Suffolk County office of deeds show that MIT loaned $436,400 to the fraternity corporation in 1992 to renovate and modernize the fraternity. As a result of the loan, MIT has a security interest in the property.
As part of the terms of the loan agreement, MITcan call in the loan if the premises are no longer occupied by a recognized living group and if the allocation board of the Independent Residence Development Fund recommends the action.
"There are several complications there,"Henneberry said. "MITwould basically have to make a business decision at that point as to what the action would be."
In addition, the City of Boston has a lien on the property for over $10,000 as a result of unpaid tax bills over the past two years.
David E. Lerner '81, who is listed in property records as the treasurer of the Malcolm Cotton Brown, could not be reached for comment.