- Sentences Issued in Pi Delta Psi Death
- House Considers Higher Education Re-authorization
- PKA International Indicted
- DKE Wins Right to Return to its House at Wesleyan and its Attorney's Fees
Newsletter > January 2018 > "PKA International Indicted"
PKA International Indicted
Tim Burke, Manley Burke, firstname.lastname@example.org
On December 14, 2017, a Grand Jury in Harris County, Texas (Houston) indicted Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity, Inc. for hazing. While the conduct described in the indictment which ultimately resulted in a lacerated spleen for new member Jared Mendosa (identified as the Complainant in the indictment) was horrific, the individuals who engaged in that conduct in violation of both Texas law and the rules of Pi Kappa Alpha, were not charged. Neither was the Chapter, though it was quickly closed by the International Fraternity. Why the International Fraternity, which has a strong anti- hazing policy, was charged was not explained.
Kim Ogg, the District Attorney for Harris County, Texas said in her statement “Brotherhood and collegiate good times should be safe and hazing is not. It is also illegal and that should be recognized by the dozens of fraternities and sororities on college campuses all over the Houston area.” No one can disagree with that statement.
Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity, after learning of the indictment issued a statement saying in part:
“The acts by these former members and University of Houston students are appalling and have reflected poorly on Epsilon Eta Chapter, an organization with a proud 60 year history and over 1, 100 alumni in Pi Kappa Alpha. Moreover, the alleged activities are not part of any ritual nor any other activity supported by the Fraternity. . . Pi Kappa Alpha fully supports holding the guilty parties accountable in these matters. Should the District Attorney wish to redirect focus on the individuals responsible for these deplorable actions, the International Fraternity stands willing to assist in that investigation by providing rosters and other useful information gleaned through its own fact-finding process into this matter. It is Pi Kappa Alpha’s position that individuals should be held responsible for the criminal act of hazing. This is a critical step in addressing the issues not only in Houston, but in student organizations throughout the country. The responsible persons in this case, who clearly knew the difference between right and wrong are merely shirking their personal responsibility by hiding behind an organization which is now defunct as a result of their actions.”
The actions described in the indictment are outrageous and offensive. According to the indictment the Complainant was forced “to roll around in vomit, tobacco spit and feces”; was “deprived of adequate food and drink”; “was deprived of adequate sleep”; was required “to sleep while confined in a small space”; was required “to participate in calisthenics”; required “to drink an alcohol beverage, namely hot beer”. And in an activity eerily similar to that which killed “Michael” Deng and resulted in the conviction of the National Pi Delta Psi Fraternity, Inc. a month earlier in Pennsylvania, the indictment described the Complainant as being required “to participate in physical activity namely a ‘green light game’ where the Complainant was subjected to the risk of a blind side tackle in the dark, subjecting the Complainant to unreasonable risk of harm” and in the final paragraph of the indictment, the allegation is made that “the Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity, Inc., hereafter styled the Defendant, heretofore on or about November 17-20, 2016, did then and there unlawfully, intentionally and knowingly engage in physical brutality by forcibly tackling the Complainant in a blind-side manner in the dark causing bodily injury, namely a lacerated spleen.”
Grand jury proceedings are secret. The International Fraternity may not have even known it was being considered for criminal prosecution and no one other than the District Attorney’s office and the members of the Grand Jury itself know what evidence was presented.
In the Pi Delta Psi Fraternity case, there was evidence that the National Fraternity had actually promoted its “Glass Ceiling Function” or “Gauntlet” where new members, blindfolded, were required to run through a group of current members while being pushed, shoved and ultimately tackled. There was proof that the National President of Pi Delta Psi had knowledge of the practice and by his presence at a prior performance of the ritual had endorsed it. In that case there was also evidence that a National Officer had provided instruction that the National Fraternity be protected when those involved were talking to local police.
International Pi Kappa Alpha on the other hand makes its opposition to hazing crystal clear on the home page of its website under Health and Safety Its anti-hazing statement is readily available and that position statement begins clearly “It is very simple: Pike does not tolerate hazing.” Members are instructed to refuse to participate in hazing, new members insured that such refusal will not place their membership at risk and anyone learning of hazing is instructed to immediately report it to a Chapter officer. The text of Pike’s position on hazing is required to be read at the first meeting of each new member class and signed by the new member, the new member educator and the Chapter President. A list of “destructive new member activities” which are clearly not to be engaged in includes virtually every one of the criminal conducts described in the indictment. The Fraternity offers some common sense questions to be asked if individuals are not sure something might constitute hazing:
- “Is the activity an educational experience?
- Does the activity promote or confirm the values of the Fraternity?
- Will the activity increase respect for Pi Kappa Alpha by non-affiliated individuals?
- Do new members and initiated members participate together or equally in the activity?
- Would you be willing to allow parents to witness the activity?
- Would you be able to defend the activity in a Court of law?
- Does the activity have value in and of itself?”
Finally, Pi Kappa Alpha’s statement offer “a good rule to follow when deciding whether or not an activity is hazing is: If you have to ask if what you are doing is hazing, it probably is.”
The International Fraternity of Pi Kappa Alpha is also a proud member of Hazing Prevention.Org and a sponsor, along with some forty other national and international fraternal organizations, of the National Anti-Hazing Hotline.
Perhaps the explanation for the International Fraternity’s indictment lies in a unique aspect of the Texas Education Code. Section 37.151 through 37.157 contains separate sections for hazing by individuals and an “Organization Hazing Offense.” Section 37.153 defines the Organization Hazing Offense as follows: “An organization commits an offense if the organization condones or encourages hazing or if an officer or any combination of members, pledges, or alumni of the organization commits or assist in the commission of hazing.”
Section 37.155 provides that “the court may grant immunity from prosecution for the offense to each person who is subpoenaed to testify for the prosecution and who does testify for the prosecution.”
As a result there is at least a possibility that the members who actually engaged in the hazing of the Complainant may receive immunity from prosecution if they testify against the International Fraternity. It may also be that the District Attorney has failed to distinguish between the Chapter at the University of Houston and the International Fraternity. But the way the Texas law is written, the DA may be attempting to prosecute the International because members and/or officers of the chapter somehow condoned the conduct. Whether that would be sufficient to withstand judicial scrutiny, particularly given the International’s strong position against hazing, remains to be seen.
No doubt Pi Kappa Alpha will offer a vigorous defense in facing the charge of “hazing, including mental and physical abuse.” The International Fraternity faces the potential of a $10,000 fine. Individuals convicted of the same thing could face the potential of 180 days in jail in addition to a fine.
It is hard to imagine what evidence there could be to justify a conviction of the International Fraternity, but any indictment is something that has to be taken very seriously. Whether this case ever reaches trial remains to be seen. Fraternal Law will update this issue.