Faternity Pledge, Michael Deng, Fought Back in Fatal Hazing

The horrors that ensued for our client on the night of the fatal hazing as reported in graphic detail by The New York Times:

Michael Deng’s future was cut tragically short when the 19-year-old died during a trip to Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains with the Baruch College chapter of the Pi Delta Psi fraternity.

The fraternity brothers decided that Deng had a bad attitude.

Like three other Pi Delta Psi fraternity pledges who went before him on a cold December morning in 2013, Mr. Deng was forced to run across a frozen yard through a knot of his fraternity brothers, while he wore a blindfold and a backpack weighted down with 20 to 30 pounds of sand.

The gantlet, called the Glass Ceiling, symbolized their burden as Asian-Americans trying to break into the mainstream. The backpack stood for the weight of their fraternity bonds, one member told the police, according to a grand jury report.

Tragically for Deng, the fraternity brothers decided he had a bad attitude.  A judgment that would ultimately lead to his death. a decision that ultimately would lead to his death. Mr. Deng, a freshman at Baruch College whose parents emigrated from China, did not fall into line.

He fought back, kicking one of the men lined up to tackle him, a fraternity brother told investigators. A second told the police he did not say the things he was supposed to, adding, “He got the ‘Bros’ mad.”

So the brothers hit harder.

One ran at Mr. Deng from 15 feet away and plowed into him with his head lowered, in a move known as the spear, student witnesses said. Others pushed him to the ground, the force of each blow amplified by the weight on Mr. Deng’s back.

After they were done, Mr. Deng was dying from brain and bodily injuries, a prefinals weekend retreat had turned into the scene of a murder investigation, and his fellow pledges, big brothers and fraternity leaders were its primary suspects.

Prosecutors in Pennsylvania said this week that they intended to charge five people with third-degree murder and 32 others with a range of counts, including assault, hindering apprehension and hazing in the death of Mr. Deng, known as Michael, on Dec. 9, 2013.

American colleges have struggled for years to tamp down on fraternity hazing, a task that has bedeviled administrators as they try to curb sprawling late-night parties, relying on witnesses with fierce loyalties to their student groups. If nothing else, the details of Mr. Deng’s death, as described in the grand jury’s report released on Tuesday, show how hard it has been to control the violence.

Baruch, a public commuter school in the heart of Manhattan, barely has a Greek scene to speak of, and the retreat happened in a weekend rental house in Tunkhannock Township, Pa., in the Pocono Mountains, more than 100 miles away. Yet so many students participated, according to the authorities, that their court appearances have to be spaced out so as not to overwhelm the small courthouse where they are being charged.

Pi Delta Psi’s Baruch colony, founded in 2010, was designed to help Asian-American students — many of whom were the children of immigrants — find a place in the pecking order of a school buzzing with aspiring business people.

For Mr. Deng, a competitive handball player who graduated from the Bronx High School of Science, the group offered “the possibility of personal connections, friendship, a sense of belonging to the Asian community, and having access to some of those connections because he intended to be involved in international business,” a family lawyer, Douglas E. Fierberg, said on Tuesday.

But the Glass Ceiling was a manifestation of the barriers they faced, and a test for new pledges to prove they could surmount them. “We should help each other to enter the mainstream of society,” said Hugh H. Mo, a lawyer for one of the defendants, echoing the group’s guiding philosophy.

On that December morning, he said, the tradition took on a “Lord of the Flies” dynamic.

After they were done tackling him, Mr. Deng’s brothers carried him inside the two-story home. His body felt like a “dead weight,” one member later told the police, according to the grand jury report. Another described it as “straight like a board.”

He was laid down near the fireplace and stripped of the black hooded sweatshirt and black sweatpants that were his uniform for the initiation. They put him in a blanket, then gave him water and chocolate and put sugar on his lips to try waking him up.

After 10 minutes, Mr. Deng “started sucking air and making snoring sounds,” one member said. Some students noticed his pupils did not dilate.

They reached out to the fraternity’s national president at the time, Andy Meng, who told them by phone to hide everything showing the group’s symbol, according to the grand jury report. One member told the police that “the protocol is to first put away fraternity letters, paddles, banners etc.,” to shield the organization.

The brothers grew nervous, but not nervous enough to call an ambulance.

“Kwan stated no one called for an ambulance because someone looked it up and the bill/cost was too high,” the grand jury report says, citing the account of Kenny Kwan, who prosecutors say will be charged with murder in the tackling on Mr. Deng that started with a 15-foot running head start.

Instead, they pulled up their cellphones’ browsers and searched for terms like “Concussion can’t wake up,” “snoring but not waking up” and “pupils don’t dilate.” One member asked for advice from a friend whose grandfather had recently fallen and died.

It was an hour before three members took him to the hospital. He was mumbling, shivering and snoring, as if he had phlegm stuck in his throat.

There, doctors found constellations of bruises spread across his head, cheeks, back and thighs. His head injuries were so severe that a doctor determined they would have required “hundreds of pounds of impulsive loads.” He also had traumatic asphyxia, likely from hits or tackles magnified by his backpack’s heavy load.

When investigators searched the home, whose facade of brick and siding gave it the stately look of a traditional fraternity house, they found Mr. Deng’s clothes stuffed in a garbage bag. Despite the members’ best efforts, the police also found clothing, paddles, banners, signs and notebooks, all bearing the fraternity’s logo.

Then it came time for the authorities to determine responsibility But some of the members “lied to the police, they hid and tried to hide evidence, and a lot of that was based on trying to cover up and hide the fraternity’s involvement in the case,” Michael Rakaczewski, an assistant district attorney in Monroe County, Pa., said at a news conference on Tuesday.

“Doctors found constellations of bruises spread across his head, cheeks, back and thighs. His head injuries were so severe that a doctor determined they would have required “hundreds of pounds of impulsive loads.” He also had traumatic asphyxia, likely from hits or tackles magnified by his backpack’s heavy load. When investigators searched the home, whose facade of brick and siding gave it the stately look a traditional fraternity house, they found Mr. Deng’s clothes stuffed in a garbage bag. Despite the members’ best efforts, the police also found clothing, paddles, banners, signs and notebooks, all bearing the fraternity’s logo. “– The New York Times

Doug Fierberg, the lawyer for Mr. Deng’s parents, who have sued the fraternity and several of its members, said they were disturbed by the revelation on Tuesday that some members had undressed him after his injury, and that they had singled him out for worse abuse because he resisted. He’s saying, “Do not do this to me,”  Mr. Fierberg said, “and the result is, they do worse.”

Click here to read the article detailing the fatal night in its entirety.