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MIT May Be Criminally Liable in Scott KruegerUs Drinking Death

ByDouglas E. Heimburger
Associate News Editor

While the investigation into the death of Scott S. Krueger '01 continues, some legal experts claim that officials of the Institute and the Institute itself could potentially be criminally liable for Krueger's death.

A landmark decision by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts in 1944 made it possible for individuals not at the scene of a crime to face criminal charges if there was "willful, wanton or reckless conduct," according to MarkG.Perlin, a law professor at Suffolk University.

In that case, Commonwealth v. Welansky, an owner of a nightclub was shown to be liable for the death of his patrons in a fire. "The issue was whether the proprietor of the nightclub had taken reasonable precautions to protect patrons,"Perlin said.

Similarly, in the case of Krueger's death, individuals not involved in the crime itself could be charged it it was shown that they had a "reckless disregard for others" towards whom they have a responsibility, Perlin said.

Documents show that MIT had a knowledge of heavy drinking in fraternities as early as 1991, when the Undergraduate Association Standing Committee on Student Life released its report on the Institute's alcohol policy.

The committee's report said that "incidents regularly arise when alcohol is used irresponsibly, and they arise seemingly undeterred."The committee concluded that "there is a problem with alcohol that must be addressed on this campus."

The UA as a whole eventually defeated the report's request for a new Dean for Alcohol Education and its call to ban the use of house tax funds for alcohol.

The committee "made very sweeping recommendations,"then-Dean for Student Affairs James R. Tewhey said in a recent interview. However, neither the UAnor the IFCwanted to enforce the new policies.

J. Paul Kirby '92, former UA president and chair of the subcommittee which released the alcohol report, said "both MIT's outside council and officials in the Dean's office knew for a long time that the connection between MIT and the fraternities was strong enough that MIT would have a hard time divorcing itself from a lawsuit involving an incident in the fraternities."

Kirby said that his report was "proof that alcohol is a serious problem" at MIT. That report, however, was greeted with "simple indifference" by many in the administration, he said.

Institute further informed in 1992

The Institute received more information about the drinking in fraternities after Scott R. Velazquez G and Robert Plotkin '93, who depledged Pi Lambda Phi, wrote a 50-page document detailing their pledging activities to President CharlesM. Vest.

"I knew alcohol would be prevalent in the fraternity, but Ihad absolutely no idea that half to three quarters of the brothers would be completely intoxicated at least once a week,"Velazquez wrote.

After communicating complaints about his treatment, Velazquez said NealH.Dorow, associate dean for residence and campus activities and advisor for fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups failed to assist in changing the problem.

"I feel [Dorow] is legally responsible for knowingly permitting drug and alcohol violations, harassment and hazing, and unsafe conditions to persist,"Velazquez wrote.

After receiving their complaints, Vest referred the students to Tewhey. Proceedings within the Dean's Office then looked into the complaints, and levied various sanctions against individuals and the fraternity, Tewhey said.

Velazquez wrote that Tewhey overturned convictions and allowed members who had been removed back into the fraternity.

Velazquez and Plotkin were "very concerned about what had happened to them and that it never happen to anyone else," Tewhey said. "I was comfortable with the sanctions imposed on both the fraternity and the individuals"after the incident, Tewhey said.

While the incident was handled well, the larger issues raised by the group may not have received significant attention because the students, Velazquez and Plotkin, "had an agenda one that not everyone agrees with," Tewhey said. "They wanted to see fraternities disbanded there was not a lot of support for that," Tewhey said.

Actual charges not yet determined

Actual decisions on who, if anyone, will be charged in the incident rest with Suffolk County District Attorney Ralph C. MartinII.

Individuals ranging from officials of the fraternity to Institute officials and those purchasing the alcohol could theoretically be charged depending on the evidence found, Perlin said.

If the Institute is charged as a corporation and found guilty, the penalty would likely be financial. On the other hand, individuals charged and convicted could receive fines and time in the correctional system,Perlin said.

According to sources quoted in the Boston Globe, the investigation into Krueger's death is going slowly due to lack of cooperation on the part of the Institute.

Frank Dabek and Jennifer Lane contributed to the reporting of this story.