- ALCOHOL-RELATED DEATH AT TSU
- PRIVATE ACTION FOR FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION
- RAPE AT IOWA STATE?
- WARNING CRIMINAL SUSPECTS
- CRIMINAL PROSECUTION AT MIT
Newsletter > November 1998 > "CRIMINAL PROSECUTION AT MIT"
CRIMINAL PROSECUTION AT MIT
Timothy M. Burke, Manley & Burke
‘We sent our son to MIT for five weeks and came down here and picked him up in a box….” Darlene Krueger, mother of Scott Krueger.
The heartsickness of Scott Krueger’s mother was evident in the New England cable news broadcast though it was just 12 days short of a year since Scott, a freshman Gamma Phi Delta pledge at MIT, had died. She wondered whether those who may have been involved in Scott’s death:
“Had any idea what it is like to get a phone call at 1:00 in the morning and have a hospital tell you that they have just spent 40 minutes getting your son’s heart beating again, that he was dumped in a basement, puking, passed out, and they left him there to go up and have another drink”
Mrs. Krueger’s comments came at a press conference held in Boston at which Suffolk County District Attorney Ralph C. Martin II announced the indictment of the Phi Gamma Delta Chapter at MIT.
The text of District Attorney Martin’s statement follows:
BOSTON, MA., Sept. 17 — Shortly after midnight on September 27, 1997, Scott Krueger, an 18-year-old Massachusetts Institute of Technology freshman, was found unconscious in his bedroom at Phi Gamma Delta house, an MIT fraternity located at 28 The Fenway.
Scott Krueger was rushed by ambulance to Beth Israel Hospital where his blood alcohol level registered .401. He remained in a coma until he was pronounced dead on September 29, 1997. The cause of death was acute alcohol poisoning and aspiration.
Shortly after Scott Krueger’s death a grand jury began hearing evidence pertinent to the case. Today I am announcing that the grand
jury has returned two indictments against the local chapter of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity.
Specifically, the fraternity has been indicted on one count of manslaughter and one count of hazing.
My staff has devoted an extraordinary amount of time researching all the law applicable to this incident, and our research - along with information developed through the investigation into Scott Krueger’s death have resulted in these indictments.
The length of this investigation reflects the unique and extraordinary nature of the case and of the legal groundwork required to move forward. This case marks the first time in my memory that the hazing statute has been applied against a fraternity in Massachusetts. It also marks the first time, to our knowledge, that a fraternity has been charged with manslaughter anywhere.
At this time I can not release much of the information regarding the case, but I can tell you that these indictments are based upon specific actions that occurred on the night of September 27, and that those actions were related to a traditional pledge event sponsored and sanctioned by the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity.
There were incorrect reports today that the grand jury did not determine who purchased the alcohol that night. The grand jury did in fact determine who purchased the alcohol. My office determined that the indictments should be aimed at the fraternity that promoted and orchestrated the activities that ultimately led to Scott Krueger’s death, not at the people [who] were sent on a purchasing errand.
Also, it was reported that the grand jury returned indictments today. In fact, those indictments were returned Monday and unsealed today.
I can also tell you that my office and the grand jury spent a great deal of time investigating the culpability of the MIT administration in the death of Scott Krueger.
We ultimately concluded that criminal charges against the administration were not warranted.
However, we did discover a troubling lack of supervision over a fraternity that was the source of numerous alcohol infractions, continuous neighborhood complaints and serious concerns from within the MIT community itself.
The pressure of the criminal investigation has led to a series of changes at MIT. But it is clear that the administration moved too slowly in addressing a trouble-plagued fraternity and in addressing the larger issue of inadequate housing capacity for MIT freshmen.
I have spoken with Scott Krueger’s parents, and I want to point out that they have been extremely understanding and cooperative. They have demonstrated tremendous patience and respect for this investigation.
Each year, there continue to be tragic deaths like that of Scott Krueger.
National fraternal organizations have almost universally adopted clear, strong policies against the abuse or illegal use of alcohol. Many national organizations have developed solid educational programs and put in place disciplinary codes to deal with alcohol-related violations. Still, some local chapters, who would justify their activities on the basis of “tradition,” “we just want to have fun,” ”we’re just college students and it doesn’t mean anything anyway,” choose to ignore national directives and engage in what is clearly illegal conduct — supplying alcohol to minors.
The indictment of the MIT Chapter ought to cause national organizations to redouble their leadership efforts. Where the respect for the lives of their brothers and sisters in their chapters has not convinced chapter leaders in the past to get in step with national directives, they ought to take this indictment to heart as the ultimate reason for insisting that laws on alcohol be obeyed at chapter parties and events. This is particularly true with regard to activity directed at pledges where alcohol and hazing can form a potentially deadly mix. Given the indictment in the Krueger case, it can be virtually guaranteed that those chapters that do not learn from this indictment and suffer a tragedy like Scott Krueger’s death, may very well find themselves in the same position as the Phi Gamma Chapter. Worse still, the individual chapter members and officers who purchased the alcohol, encouraged its use, or failed to act responsibly to prevent the illegal use or abuse of alcohol, could find themselves facing charges against themselves personally.
[This case marks the first time in my memory that the hazing statute has been applied against a fraternity in Massachusetts. It also marks the first time, to our knowledge, that a fraternity has been charged with manslaughter anywhere.]
The fact that the District Attorney chose to issue indictments in this case is not in and of itself surprising, though this does appear to be the first time that a chapter, as opposed to individual members, has been the target of such a criminal proceeding. It was predictable. In January of 1984, Fraternal Law reported on a similar death at Tennessee State University. That article is reprinted in its entirety on page 6. As that article pointed out, the concept of criminal indictments for manslaughter where a death occurs as a result of the violation of a misdemeanor statute like providing alcohol to minors, is not new. That application of law is consistent with general common law notions of misdemeanor and manslaughter that provide that if a person commits a misdemeanor which results in the death of another person, the misdemeanant may thereby be guilty of manslaughter. For example, it is not at all unusual for the driver of a car, whose violation of a traffic law causes an accident in which a death occurs, to be charged with a homicide. Since it is a misdemeanor to provide alcoholic beverages to minors as a general rule, and if the violation of a statute is the proximate cause of the death of an individual, the entity or individual that commits that violation may be charged with and convicted, if the charges are proven, of manslaughter or some other degree of homicide. This indictment ought to be made widely known to chapters all across the country. Perhaps it will serve as a slap in the face to chapters and their leaders who still choose an ill-conceived notion of “fun” over obeying the law and social responsibility.