Justice is not Served
Michael J. Ring
The people of Suffolk County cried out for justice. But no one was there to answer their call.
The district attorney's office went to Suffolk Superior Court last Thursday to seek the indictment of the MIT chapter of Phi Gamma Delta in the death of Scott S. Krueger '01. But the defendant's box was empty. No members or representatives of the fraternity were present to answer to the charge of manslaughter.
Now, over a year after Krueger's tragic death, we have no sense of closure or sense of justice. Indeed, it appears that those responsible for his death will walk away without even a slap of the wrist from the court. Instead of judgment in the case of a most suspicious death of a member of our community, we are left with games of legal semantics. Responsibility is tossed about like an old rag, but it is never claimed.
The local members of Fiji, those that were supposed to be brothers and role models to Krueger, deny responsibility in his death. None of them was indicted individually, and apparently none of them felt compelled to answer to the actions of their organization in a court of law last Thursday. Apparently no actions of an individual on this "Animal House Night" of booze, a night when somebody had to obtain and serve the intoxicating potables to Krueger, a night when somebody had to move the unconscious Krueger to his room, were responsible for his death.
The national organization of Phi Gamma Delta also denies responsibility in Krueger's death. The national leadership refused to authorize their Boston attorney to appear at the arraignment as their representative. The national fraternity does not discuss whether its policies and atmosphere were tragically flawed. Instead it stated last week that since the local chapter of Fiji is suspended, there is no chapter present to answer to the charge of manslaughter. Rather than admit the mistakes of the past, the national leadership dodges responsibility by offering the excuse that the chapter doesn't exist now. Out of sight, out of mind.
But the blame does not merely rest with Phi Gamma Delta. There is another player in this sad tragedy that has failed to execute his duty and therefore has contributed to the absence of justice in this case. This person is Suffolk County District Attorney Ralph C. Martin II.
The actions of the district attorney's office have contributed to the abdication of responsibility. Politics trumped principles last month when Martin announced the indictment of the local Fiji chapter as an unincorporated association. Martin made headlines when he hailed what is believed to be the first-ever indictment in Massachusetts against a fraternity chapter for a crime related to binge drinking. But that is little consolation since the chances are essentially zero he will win in this case the first-ever conviction against a fraternity chapter for a binge-drinking related crime.
There are people in Fiji who were more responsible for Krueger's death than others in the organization. Someone served him alcohol. Someone moved his body, only to go for more drinks instead of seeking immediate medical attention for his "brother." Martin could have sought charges against these individuals, making clear that those most responsible for Krueger's death would be forced to answer for their actions while exonerating the other members of Fiji. He chose not to expend political capital, opting for good press over good practice of law.
Now we are left with the aftermath. Prosecutors sought a default warrant on Monday but the magistrate, who last week admitted he was "perplexed" by the scenario, found that no warrant could be served now since there was no defendant in the case which could face prosecution, as the local fraternity had been disbanded. Unless Phi Gamma Delta decides to reorganize at MIT, a possibility which is now nearly certain never to happen, no charges will be further pressed and no convictions won in this case.
Krueger's death has caused some radical changes at MIT, some of which have the potential to be very positive for the Institute community. There is a new awareness of the dangers of alcohol abuse and a stimulated interest and fresh debate of housing policy. Both of these changes were greatly aided, if not prompted, by Krueger's death.
At the same time, however, MIT is faced with a tremendous public image problem. The Institute has responded horribly over this past year to these challenges; its administrators have continually come across in the media as cold and uncaring. Many on the outside stereotype MIT as a party school where alcohol flows freely and most students engage in binge drinking. The standing of the FSILG system has been especially damaged, as responsible chapters with spotless behavior are tethered to Fiji and the other chapters which recently have demonstrated their callous immaturity. Many in the MIT community have been left demoralized by these media battles and distortions.
The bottom line, however, is that an 18-year old just embarking upon a promising college career, just starting what should have been a rich and fruitful life, instead died last year at a Fiji booze bash. And apparently not one person is going to have to stand up in court and explain to the people of Suffolk County his responsibility in Krueger's death. The impunity for the crime of manslaughter is a second tragedy, one for which, not surprisingly, no one takes responsibility.