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Indictments Name Fiji Residents As Group; MIT Not Named

By Douglas E. Heimburger
Editor in Chief

The MITchapter of Phi Gamma Delta has been indicted by a Suffolk County grand jury on one count of manslaughter and one count of hazing following the death of Scott S. Krueger '01 last fall.

In announcing the indictments, Suffolk County District Attorney Ralph C. Martin II said they "are based upon specific actions that occurred on the night of September 27, and that those actions were related to traditional pledge event sponsored and sanctioned" by Fiji.

The fraternity as a whole "acted in a reckless and wanton way,"which fits the criminal definition of manslaughter, Martin said.

MIT, the Malcolm Cotton Brown Corporation, which owns the Fiji house, and specific individuals were not indicted yesterday.

The fraternity as a collective body was indicted because "a certain set of events was set into play by the fraternity that led to [Krueger's] ingestion of alcohol,"Martin said.

Those "living at the house at the time of the death" make up the Phi Gamma Delta group indicted, said James Borghesani, press secretary for Martin.

The grand jury investigation, which lasted for over 11 months, initially focused on the individuals nearest to the incident, Martin said. The investigation later moved to the organizations involved in the event, such as the Fiji fraternity.

While charges were considered against MIT, Martin and his staff decided not to prosecute the Institute. While the decision not to prosecute was closely debated, the office was fairly united in its opinion that a conviction could not be obtained, Martin said.

While Massachusetts law does not differentiate specifically between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, the case will be tried as an involuntary manslaughter case, Borghesani said.

The indictments were sealed between Monday, when the grand jury returned the indictment, and yesterday to avoid the illusion that they were being released during the primary elections in an attempt to bury the news, Martin said.

Krueger died on Sept. 29 last year after spending three days in a coma from acute alcohol ingestion. Prosecutors allege he was served and ingested alcohol as part of a pledge event at the fraternity.

Today's Boston Globe reports that court papers filed by Martin allege that a pledge trainerat Fiji provided beer and Jack Daniels whiskey to the pledges on "Animal House night." The pledges were then to drink a "prescribed amount of alcohol."

The papers go on to say that Krueger's big brothergave him a bottle of Bacardi spiced rum later in the evening.

Krueger, who became nauseated, was carried down to his room, placed on his stomach, and left with a garbage can, the Globe reports.

Timothy M. Burke, an attorney representing some of the Fiji members including the pledge trainer, said that "there was never any compulsion to drink a prescribed amount of alcohol,"the Globe reports.

No individual charges

The district attorney and the grand jury decided not to press charges against individuals at the fraternity.

"All we can do is bring the available charges and perhaps put other fraternities on warning"about the potential consequences for alcohol abuse, Martin said.

While the grand jury did discover who among the fraternity purchased the alcohol, "merely going to the store on an errand is not reckless and wanton conduct,"Martin said, and thus it did not fit the requirements for manslaughter.

"My office determined that the indictments should be aimed at the fraternity that promoted and orchestrated the activities that ultimately led to Scott Krueger's death, not at the people who were sent on a purchasing errand,"Martin said.

"If there had been one person who stood in the place of this organization" that evening, "they would be held responsible" for Krueger's death, Martin added.

Although the individuals at the fraternity were not charged with felonies, they may still face prosecution from Boston Police for misdemeanor charges related to alcohol possession and consumption, Martin said. Those issues alone are not handled as part of a grand jury process.

Krueger's parents and their attorney, Leo V. Boyle, signaled yesterday that they will likely sue individual members who were connected to the event.

Charges uncommon in state

The decision to criminally charge a fraternity with manslaughter and hazing is unusual, Martin said.

Under common law, unincorporated groups can be sued, Martin said. Attorneys for the district attorney's office concluded that the law could reasonably be extended so that unincorporated groups can be indicted.

"It is unusual but there is precedent," said Suffolk University Law Professor Mark G. Perlin. "We have many cases that corporations have been indicted with manslaughter."

The group will be arraigned in Suffolk Superior Court on Oct.1. Martin said that he expected an attorney representing the group to appear on that day, but added that he was unsure who exactly would represent the group.

Under Massachusetts law, manslaughter can be punished by incarceration for up to twenty years, or by a fine of up to $1,000 and imprisonment for up to two and one half years. Hazing can be punished by a fine of up to $3,000 and imprisonment for up to one year.

With organizations, however, financial penalties are generally the only ones exerted, Perlin said. "You cannot incarcerate an organization."

Prosecutors confirmed that no one would serve jail time if convictions are obtained from the indictments, the Associated Press reported.

Fiji is most likely the first fraternity to be charged with manslaughter in the country, Martin said, and it is also the first to be charged with hazing in recent memory.

Other fraternities have faced lesser charges for recent drinking deaths. Last month, the Louisiana State University chapter ofSigma Alpha Epsilon pleaded no-contest to 86 counts of purchasing alcohol for underage drinkers and agreed to pay $22,600 in fines.

In 1997, a 20-year-old SAEpledge at LSUdied after ingesting alcohol. The chapter closed after the incident.

MIT, administrators criticized

While the grand jury decided not to indict MIT, Martin nonetheless criticized the Institute for not changing its housing system earlier.

"It is clear that the administration moved too slowly in addressing a trouble-plagued fraternity and in addressing the larger issues of inadequate housing capacity for MITfreshmen."

Martin said there was no agreement between the District Attorney and MITregarding its housing changes since the incident.

At Wednesday's faculty meeting, President Charles M. Vest said that external factors played a role in the Aug. 25 decision to house all freshmen on campus.

However, "there was and is no agreement that the grand jury would, or would not, take any specific action in exchange for decisions about freshman housing or dealing with dangerous drinking or any other matter," Vest said.

In a statement released after the decision, Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams said "MIThas cooperated with the investigation into the death of ScottKrueger and we will continue to do so as the charges against the fraternity are adjudicated."

Earlier this week, the Dean's Office, the Interfraternity Council, and representatives of Fiji and of Malcolm Cotton Brown finalized an agreement that will cause the fraternity to be de-recognized by the Dean's Office until at least 2000, Williams said Wednesday.

The group will also likely be derecognized by the InterfraternityCouncil using the group's inactivity clause, which allows for the immediate removal of inactive groups, said IFCPresident Duane H. Dreger '99.

The IFC last derecognized a group in 1990, when Alpha Epsilon Pi reorganized, Dreger said. The fraternity was re-recognized two years later.

During that reorganization, the Dean's Office withdrew its recognition for one year, but subsequently restored it before the IFCre-recognized the group. The Association of Student Activities also recognized the group during the period, Dreger said, which allowed it to hold events and reserve rooms.

As part of the new agreement, which was agreed to by all sides in a "mutual" manner, Fiji will not petition any Institute group for recognition until at least 2000, Dreger said.

The agreement was in its final planning stages this week; Williams signed the document on Tuesday.

No one was available for comment at Phi Gamma Delta's national organization yesterday. Roderick P. Taft '74, president of Malcolm Cotton Brown, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Zareena Hussain and Kevin Lang contributed to the reporting of this article.