By Sadef Ali Kully
After homicide and other related charges were brought Monday against 37 members of an Asian fraternity at Baruch College, police contended the students were particularly brutal to Michael Deng, a 19-year-old freshman from Oakland Gardens, who died in the Poconos after a night of hazing in 2013.
According to the Pocono Mountain Regional Police, the hazing ritual called “glass ceiling” required blindfolded Pi Delta Psi pledges to carry a 30-pound backpack in the snow while being beaten by members in a line. Police Chief Chris Wagner said during a Tuesday press conference in Monroe, Pa., “It was reported that he was tackled harder than any of the other pledges.” Members told police that Deng had complained of breathing problems before he became unconscious, police said. Authorities said his fraternity members delayed 90 minutes before seeking medical help.
Five former Pi Delta Psi fraternity brothers were charged with murder and the 32 others with related charges in the Dec. 9, 2013 death, police said. The department said it planned to arrest suspects starting with the ones facing the most minor charges and then the group accused of the most culpable crimes.
Five of the former members—Charles Lai, Kenny Kwan, Raymond Lam, Daniel Li and Sheldon Wong—were charged with homicide, involuntary manslaughter and criminal conspiracy-related charges, according to police.
Another five were charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, hindering apprehension, hazing and criminal conspiracy, police said. The Monroe County grand jury also indicted 27 others on charges from aggravated assault to criminal conspiracy.
Among the 27 was Andy Meng, younger brother of U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and head of the fraternity. Meng faces lesser felony charges of hindering apprehension, hazing and criminal conspiracy, police said.
Andy Meng allegedly was called by the frightened fraternity brothers after Deng lost consciousness during the ritual and told them to hide items with the Pi Delta Psi name, remove hazing-related evidence and change Deng’s clothing, officials said.
According to police, Dr. Wayne Ross, a forensic pathologist, conducted an detailed analysis of Deng’s injuries, which coincided with police allegations.
Ross’s analysis showed “significant and severe” injuries to the head, a massive bruise on the back due to repeated blunt force trauma, which resulted in traumatic asphyxia, and bruising to the thighs due to restraint or blunt force impact.
Ross pointed out Deng could have survived if medical help had not been delayed.
The Deng family issued a statement through their attorney, Douglas Fierberg, who has also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the fraternity and CUNY’s Baruch College, “The parents of Michael Deng applaud the actions by the police, grand jury and Monroe County district attorney’s office to bring criminal charges against the Pi Delta Psi Fraternity and its members for the tragic, entirely preventable hazing death of Michael.”
Baruch Pollege President Dr. Mitchel Wallerstein also responded to the allegations, “We owe it to Michael and his family to hold accountable those who were responsible for the senseless death.”
The college permanently banned the Pi Delta Psi chapter after the incident.
Wallerstein said less than 100 students participate in fraternities or sororities out of approximately 15,000 undergraduates enrolled at the commuter college, which is based in Manhattan.
In a statement U.S. Rep. Grace Meng said, “our deepest condolences and prayers continue to go out to [the Deng] family and friends.”
She also said that she would support her brother through the legal process.
Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skull