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DA Files Default Against Fiji After it Fails to Show in Court

By Susan Buchman
ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR

Prosecutors entered a default motion against the MIT chapter of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity yesterday morning in Suffolk Superior Court after the fraternity failed to offer a representative to appear at its arraignment Thursday.

"The defendant's decision not to respond to the indictment, by ignoring a lawfully issued summons, requires that this court now enter a default," prosecutors wrote in their motion.

Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Pamela Wechsler informed magistrate William K. Walsh that "we're not asking for a warrant," a procedure that is often used against individuals who fail to appear when summoned.

Walsh allowed the default motion to be filed.

Default is a "formal recognition from the court" of an individual's failure to appear, Wechsler said Thursday when prosecutors moved for a default hearing to be held after the fraternity did not appear before the court.

The national Phi Gamma Delta fraternity had previously stated that the MIT chapter was no longer in existence.

"The fraternity didn't cease to exist until the day after the indictment was returned," Wechsler said.

Representatives of the national fraternity yesterday said they had not seen the action of the court and could not comment on the case.

The MIT chapter was indicted as an unincorporated association on charges of manslaughter and hazing in September in connection to the death of pledge Scott S. Krueger '01 over one year ago after a night of alleged drinking.

No individuals were named in the indictment handed down by the district attorney. As such, officers in the now-disbanded fraternity were not required by law to provide representation.

Prosecutors have repeatedly said that no individuals will be indicted in the future in connection with the incident.

Default prevents return of Fiji

The default motion was filed to ensure that the fraternity would not return to campus, according to Wechsler.

"We have been informed that [the fraternity] could regain their status," so the default will remain on the books "so that should they try to reorganize we will ask that the default be reentered," Wechsler said.

In September, MITand Malcolm Cotton Brown, the alumni group that owns the Fiji house at 28 The Fenway, signed an agreement that dissolves the fraternity's status at MITuntil at least 2001, when the group would be able to petition for readmittance.

Wechsler also reiterated statements made by District Attorney Ralph C. Martin II at the time of Fiji's indictment. She stated that as a result of the grand jury investigation which lead to the indictment, MIT has completely revamped its alcohol, discipline, and housing policy. "We think a lot of things have changed [at MIT]," Wechsler said.

Wechsler said that she was unable to answer questions regarding the possibility of a Phi Gamma Delta chapter containing entirely new members.

Wechsler addressed the failure of the fraternity to appear by saying "you can take from that what you will as far as an admission of guilt."

When asked about the purpose of filing such a motion, Wechsler said, "Scott Krueger, 18 years old, came here from Orchard Park, N.Y.nine weeks later he was dead. He was left in his basement to choke on his own vomit; he was abandoned there. These are the facts. We followed the facts; we followed the law. We have run the fraternity out of town, essentially."

Yesterday's motion marks the end of a legal battle that began one year ago when a grand-jury began to look into the drinking death of Scott Krueger. Speculation that MIT might be held criminally liable for Krueger's drinking death surrounded the investigation.

In early summer, several MIT administrators including President Charles M. Vest voluntarily testified to the grand jury following a summons by Martin.

Throughout, MIT had voluntarily given information to the grand jury to assert its innocence. Speculation that there was deal between MITand the district attorney on issues such as housing policy were denied by both.

While the criminal case against Phi Gamma Delta is essentially over, lawyers for Krueger's parents have not closed the door against a possible civil suit against MIT and others.