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- INSURANCE COVERAGE DENIED IN GEORGIA CASE
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- DEAN ACQUITTED FOR FAILURE TO REPORT A FELONY
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- Fraternal Law Celebrates Our 100th Issue
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Newsletter > March 2007 > "CHARGES FILED IN TEXAS HAZING CASE"
CHARGES FILED IN TEXAS HAZING CASE
Tim Burke, Manley Burke, firstname.lastname@example.org
On December 10, 2005, 18-year old Phanta “Jack” Phoummarath died of alcohol poisoning following a party at the University of Texas’ Lambda Phi Epsilon House. On December 13, 2006, following a year-long investigation, a Travis County Texas Grand Jury indicted three members of the fraternity for crimes relating to Phoummarath’s death and the hazing of other new members of the Chapter.
The President of the Chapter was indicted on seven counts of hazing. The Pledge Captain was charged with seven counts of furnishing alcohol to a minor and 28 counts of hazing. The third member of the Fraternity was indicted on 14 counts of hazing. Under Texas law hazing that causes a death is a felony which is punishable by a jail term of six (6) months to two (2) years and a fine of up to $10,000. (Hazing which causes serious bodily injury is subject to up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000. Hazing that does not cause serious bodily injury is punishable by a jail term of up to 180 days and a fine of up to $2,000.) The Travis County Prosecutor also announced that he would charge the fraternity itself with hazing and seek a fine of up to $10,000.
Lambda Phi Epsilon was described in The Houston Chronicle as not sanctioned as part of the University’s official Greek system. Lambda Phi Epsilon is an Asian-American interest fraternity and is a member of The North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC). It was, however, a registered student organization. The University has suspended that status until 2011. WBLA-TV reported that Phoummarath died “after a heavy night of drinking in which fraternity members chanted for him and six other pledges to finish as many as 8 bottles of vodka, whiskey and other drinks being passed around. Phoummarath later passed out on a mattress in the house around 12:30 a.m. and vomited on a blanket.” Recent reports indicate that while Phoummarath was passed out, members of the fraternity wrote numerous anti-gay epitaphs on his body, though published reports are that he was not gay. Phoummarath and at least one other fraternity pledge had also shaved their heads in what was described as being part of their “initiation.”
In addition to the criminal charges, the fraternity also faces a civil lawsuit filed by Phoummarath’s family by Houston attorney Randy Sorrels, who described the conduct engaged in by Chapter members as “disgusting and despicable behavior.”
A Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission official reported that Phoummarath’s blood-alcohol level, based on a urine sample, was 0.50. In Texas, a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 means that an individual is too intoxicated to legally drive a motor vehicle.
In the summer of 2006, a Princeton Review Survey of 115,000 students voted the University of Texas the best party school in the United States.
It is extremely regrettable that hazing continues to haunt the Greek system. While national fraternities, the NIC, NPC and NPHC all have strong policies, educational programs and disciplinary procedures designed to eliminate hazing, some actives just refuse to heed the message. Their failures and misconduct discredit their Greek brothers and sisters and, most tragically, can cause the death of one of their own like Jack Phoummarath.