Grand jury indictment exposes horrifying details of an alleged hazing ritual that led to murder charges

Five Baruch College students have been charged with third-degree murder in the December 2013 death of a fraternity pledge after an initiation ritual that prosecutors have called hazing.

Prosecutors in Monroe County, Pennsylvania, where the alleged hazing took place, recently posted the full grand jury presentment with details of the allegations involving the death of 19-year-old
Chun Hsien Deng — known as Michael.

Deng — a pledge member of Baruch’s Pi Delta Psi chapter, an Asian-American cultural fraternity — died after an initiation ceremony at a rented house in the Poconos, Pennsylvania.

During the initiation, Deng was allegedly forced to wear a blindfold and backpack that weighed 30 pounds, according to a forensic pathologist named Wayne Ross who was cited in the grand jury report. He was “repeatedly assaulted” while wearing the blindfold and backpack and suffered “significant blunt force trauma,” according to Ross.

What’s more, Ross said, Deng wasn’t brought to the hospital for at least an hour. The grand jury report also suggested that the frat members tried to cover up the alleged hazing ritual.

Cell phones collected by the police during a search of the house “revealed text messages amongst members of the fraternity referring to getting stories straight, hiding the fraternity gear, and Deng’s ritual being too hard,” according to the grand jury report.

“There was also content on a number of mobile phones indicating various searches for ‘Concussion — Adults, Concussion can’t wake up, Unconscious, Snoring not waking up, Pupils don’t dilate,'” the report states.

Here’s what we learned from the grand jury report:

The ‘glass ceiling’

Deng died following a fraternity ritual known as the “glass ceiling” or the “gauntlet,” according to the grand jury report, which cited police interviews with various frat members. That ritual requires pledge members to run through a line of fraternity members while being pushed and shoved, which turned into tackling as the ritual progressed, one fraternity member told police.

The glass ceiling ritual, The New York Times reports, “symbolized their burden as Asian-Americans trying to break into the mainstream.” Pledges reportedly carried backpacks weighted down with sandbags that represented “the weight of the fraternity,” one member told police.

Pledge members were blindfolded and dressed in all black before the ritual, several members told police. Deng also had his arms crossed as he tried to navigate through the fraternity brothers who were tackling him, the grand jury report said.

Why Deng got it worst

According to the grand jury report, one of the other pledges — who reportedly said he was a “longtime friend” of Deng’s — “admitted Deng had more of a problem he had an attitude at times” and “admitted the ritual was bad for [Deng] because of the way he acts.”

Another student who spoke to the police seemed to agree, saying Deng “was hit extremely hard, harder than any other pledges” and “got it worse because he was talking back and kicking.”

Various other fraternity members said that one student took a 15-foot running start to “spear” Deng at the end of the ritual, hitting the pledge member particularly hard by lowering his head, according to the grand jury report.

The student who allegedly hit Deng the hardest at the end of the ritual told police that “Deng didn’t say anything when he was supposed to during the ritual and was not cooperating the way that he should have and he got the ‘Bros’ mad.”

Hiding fraternity memorabilia

One student who brought Deng to the hospital told police that “he was in contact with another fraternity member at the residence, and told them to clean up all the fraternity memorabilia and hide it so the police didn’t see it,” according to the grand jury report.

This student said that the fraternity’s national president encouraged them to hide the identifying items, according to the grand jury report.

In a later conversation with police, the grand jury report states, the student said that “the protocol is to 1st put away fraternity letters, paddles, banners etc.” Similarly, when another student at the hospital was asked about hiding the fraternity letters, he said, “that’s our protocol, like, we don’t want to get our fraternity involved in to certain problems because it creates certain problems for the fraternity.”

As one of the students who remained at the house told police, “Afterwards it was just trying to make it so the fraternity wouldn’t get in trouble.”

We reached out to a representative for the fraternity and will update this post if we hear back.

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