By Mark Hallum
National Asian fraternity Phi Delta Psi and 37 of its members were found guilty in a seven-day jury trial on multiple charges in the death of Oakland Gardens student, Michael Deng, who was killed in a brutal hazing ritual in 2013.
Deng was blindfolded and made to carry a heavy backpack across frozen ground before being tackled and beaten in a Baruch College Pi Delta Psi hazing ritual known as the “glass ceiling, according to the Monroe County DA’s office in Stroudsburg, Pa. The incident occurred during a retreat in at a rented home in Tunkhannock Township, Pa., in the Poconos.
Phi Delta Psi is expected to face fines and other penalties as a corporation when it is sentenced on Jan. 8. The fraternity and its members were found guilty of aggravated assault, causing serious bodily injury, conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, involuntary manslaughter, hindering apprehension by concealing or destroying evidence, hindering apprehension by providing false information to law enforcement, two counts of conspiracy to commit hindering apprehension and hazing.
The fraternity was acquited of third-degree murder and voluntary manslaughterb by Monroe County Courthouse’s President Judge Margherita Patti-Worthington. .
Andy Meng, the younger brother of U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and the former head of the national fraternity, was one of the members charged. Meng faces lesser felony charges of hindering apprehension, hazing and criminal conspiracy, the DA’s office said.
Meng pleaded guilty on Nov. 29 to the charges and was sentenced to 36 months probation, a DA spokesman said.
“The Commonwealth intends to seek the maximum fine on each offense the defendant has been found guilty of, as well as injunctive relief that would prohibit the fraternity from doing any business within Pennsylvania (including having any chapters or colonies on any college campus across the Commonwealth),” said Assistant District Attorney Kimberly Metzger. “Through this verdict, the fraternity has been held responsible for the senseless and completely avoidable death of a strong, smart, promising college freshman.”.
The DA’s office said Deng was forced to walk forward across the ice and was faced with a three-person spearhead tackle when he disobeyed commands from fraternity members. Deng became unconscious and was carried into the house the frat had rented.
Members of the frat prolonged seeking medical attention for the unresponsive Deng for up to an hour and a half before driving him 40 minutes to the nearest hospital, according to the district attorney.
Deng died the next morning with his mother by his side, the DA said.
“There is nothing that will ever lift the burden of Michael’s tragic death from the hearts of his mother and father and their entire family, but in speaking with Michael’s mother following the verdict, she reiterated for us what she has consistently wished from this case—that another young person isn’t subjected to such perverse conduct merely for wanting to belong,” Metzger said. “The Monroe County Office of the District Attorney remains committed to combating hazing and exploring all available avenues of redress allowable by law.”
According to police officials, Meng was called by fraternity members when Deng lost consciousness and advised them to hide items with fraternity logos, disguise all signs of hazing and to remove Deng’s clothing.
Kenny Kwan, 28; Charles Lai, 26; Raymond Lam, 23; and Sheldon Wong, 24, all pleaded guilty in May to voluntary manslaughter as accomplices and hindering apprehension for concealing or destroying evidence for a sentence reduced from murder on Monday, according to the Monroe County District Attorney.
The four followed their fraternity brother Ka Wing Yuen, 25, who was sentenced in January to five years probation, a $1,000 fine and 100 days of community service following a guilty plea to a felony charge of conspiracy to hinder apprehension by evidence tampering and a misdemeanor charge of conspiracy to haze, according to the Pocono Record.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall