By Carlotta Mohamed
Nearly five years after the death of a Baruch College student from Oakland Gardens in 2013, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an anti-hazing bill into law Monday to reduce the dangerous hazing death incidents that occur in New York state each year.
The bill, introduced in 2014 by state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) after the hazing death of 18-year-old Michael Deng prohibits physical contact or activity in any organization’s initiating ceremony.
“The best way for us to prevent hazing is to ensure that no student is ever put in a situation where their safety is in jeopardy,” said Weprin. “Hazing is reckless and dangerous behavior, and we must do everything in our power to protect students from danger.”
Weprin said Deng’s death was a “horrific and preventable” tragedy.
The Oakland Gardens student was pledging the Baruch College chapter of Pi Delta Psi, a national Asian-American fraternity, when he died during a December 2013 fraternity retreat at a rented house in Tunkhannock Township, Pa., in the Poconos.
Deng was subjected to a hazing ritual known as “glass ceiling” during which he suffered a massive head injury after he was blindfolded and forced to lug a knapsack loaded with 20 pounds of sand as fraternity members repeatedly took him down.
The passage of Weprin’s bill follows a November 2017 Pennsylvania court ruling that found Pi Delta Psi Inc. guilty of involuntary manslaughter, hazing, and aggravated assault. In January 2018 37 individuals charged with aggravated assault, hazing and murder were found guilty and sentenced in Pennsylvania after Deng’s death.
Kenny Kwan, 28; Charles Lai, 26; Raymond Lam, 23; and Sheldon Wong, 24, had pleaded guilty in May to voluntary manslaughter as accomplices and hindering apprehension for concealing or destroying evidence for a sentence reduced from murder, according to the Monroe County district attorney. They were sentenced to seven years’ probation on top of tie already served.
.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 faced lesser felony charges of hindering apprehension, hazing and criminal conspiracy, according to the Monroe County, Pa., district attorney.
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 remove Deng’s clothing.
Meng pleaded guilty in November 2017 to the charges and was sentenced to 36 months’ probation, according to a DA spokesman.
The frat, as a corporation, was sentenced to fines of $112,500 and was barred from conducting any business in Pennsylvania during a 10-year probation. The fraternity was also required to report its conviction within 60 days to universities where it has chapters.
Reach reporter Carlotta Mohamed by e-mail at cmoha