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Kruegers Reveal Intent to Sue Institute, Fiji on ABC's 20/20

By Susan Buchman
Associate News Editor

During a 20 minute segment on ABC's 20/20 Sunday, the parents of Scott S. Krueger '01 revealed that they plan to file civil lawsuits against the MITadministration, the Phi Gamma Delta national fraternity, and local Fiji chapter leaders.

The segment, reported by Elizabeth Vargas, again drew national attention to MITand Krueger's death.

Yesterday, attorneys working for Leo V. Boyle, the Krueger's attorney, suggested the civil lawsuits likely will be filed within four to six weeks.

Brad Henry, an attorney in Boyle's office, said the lawsuit was not filed earlier because lawyers wanted to see what new information might come out from the 20/20 investigation, according to Henry.

"We had waited for the criminal process [to end]. By the time the criminal process was at closure, 20/20 was already filming, so we held off. We were interested to see what might come out that was new," Henry said.

However, "I don't know that there was anything completely new except for what was said in some of the interviews," Henry said.

Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education RosalindH. Williams was unsurprised yesterday that MITwas a target of the Krueger's. "I knew they were planning on or very much leaning towards filing a lawsuit I certainly assumed MIT" would be a defendant, she told The Tech.

Williams was interviewed on 20/20 about the housing system and alcohol policies at the Institute.

Krueger died Sept. 29, 1997 after spending three days in a coma from acute alcohol ingestion. Krueger allegedly was participating in an "Animal House" pledge night activity at Fiji when he became intoxicated, prosecutors said.

In September,Fiji was indicted on one count of manslaughter and one count of hazing. The fraternity was placed in default in late October since it has ceased to exist.

Segment explores MITsystem

The first half of the segment, entitled "Why Did Scott Die?" reviewed the life and death of Scott Krueger. The second part of the program covered the ramifications of Krueger's death, including impending civil lawsuits and changes to MIT's alcohol and housing policy.

The segment featured interviews with Mr. and Mrs. Krueger, Scott's doctor, Williams, Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Pamela Weschler, and the Krueger family's pastor.

The segment clarified the series of events that lead to Krueger's death and questioned whether it was preventable.

"He had been left a time when, had he been brought to the hospital, we may have very well been able to prevent this tragedy," said Dr. Richard Schwartzstein, the doctor who oversaw Krueger's care while he was at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

The bulk of the piece focused on Scott's parents, Darlene and Robert Krueger, who bristled at Vargas' suggestion that Scott's death could be labeled an accident.

"Is it an accident putting someone in a room and telling them don't come out until the alcohol is gone? Is that an accident, carrying somebody down in the basement and putting them on the couch and leaving them there passed out and throwing up?" said Darlene Krueger.

Participants say piece was fair

Yesterday, participants in the show claimed that it was reasonably fair to both sides.

The segment "brings up an awful lot of memories in a painful context for [the Kruegers]," Henry said.

However, their pain is balanced by the possibilities for change.

"At least they can say that they are satisfied that the issue of hazing in particular is getting national attention with the hope that this isn't going to happen again, either at MITor anywhere else," Henry told The Tech.

Williams spoke to Vargas as an MIT representative. "What I was trying to do in the interview was to add some context and some substance and also try to convey the human feelings that we at MIT feel in response to the death of Scott Krueger," she told The Tech.

On the show, Williams addressed MIT's discipline of and interaction with Fiji up until Krueger's death.

"There were complaints, there were incidents, there were problems from that house," Williams said on the program.

However, Williams said that "the problem isn't fraternities, it's binge drinking. We have not ignored the problem [of binge drinking], but we haven't solved it."

Despite the program's scrutiny of MIT, Williams said yesterday that the piece brings much-needed attention to the problem of dangerous drinking.

"Even though preparing for such an interview is difficult and not entirely pleasant, in the end I'm glad they did the story because they brought the problem to national attention," Williams said yesterday.

A notable aspect of the program was its somewhat one-sided perspective of the MIThousing system.

Weschler implied that Krueger had no choice but to participate in the hazing event because "he needed a place to live."

The segment did not mention that MIT guarantees on-campus housing for freshmen throughout the entire year.

"I don't think [the piece] really gave a full and complete picture of how housing goes here," Williams said.

MIT investigation continues

Now that the criminal proceedings have finished, MIT's self-imposed ban on an investigation of student involvement in Krueger's death is over.

"I would hope that we complete that investigation soon. We always said that we were going to wait to do our MIT investigation until the criminal proceedings are complete; we never said we were going to wait until the civil proceedings were complete," Williams said.

Williams said yesterday that the investigation was still in its initial phases and that no plans had been made yet for how to proceed with the case. In December, students who lived at Fiji were asked to discuss facts that they knew about circumstances leading to Krueger's deathwith Williams as an initial phase of the investigation.

Douglas E. Heimburger contributed to the reporting of this story.