It always felt like the other shoe had yet to drop in the case of George Desdunes, the Cornell sophomore and SAE brother who was found dead in his fraternity house on Feb. 25. Four former SAE pledges were charged in May with first-degree hazing and first-degree “unlawfully dealing with a child” — which carry with them maximum penalties of one year in prison (no small punishment, to be certain). But still, given the magnitude of the circumstances, it felt like retribution hadn’t been fully doled out.
Not so much any more: Desdunes’ mother, Marie Lourdes Andre, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the frat with a price tag of $25 million. She said, according to the Associated Press (by way of the Cornell Sun):
With the death of my son, I find some comfort in knowing that this lawsuit may bring about changes in fraternities that will prevent other families from suffering as I have.
In the initial weeks and months following Desdunes’ death, its circumstances remained shrouded in mystery. But the story we now know goes something like this:
George and another SAE brother had been whisked away on the night of Feb. 24, in what was called a “voluntary kidnapping.” (SAE had a history of such stunts.) His captors were a group of pledges, who administered “reverse-hazing” — wherein Desdunes would answer questions about the frat, drink for wrong answers, and perform calisthenics, according to the suit. The pledges later returned him to the SAE house, his wrists and ankles bound with zip ties and duct tape, and left him asleep on a couch, where he was later found. An autopsy revealed that his BAC was 0.409 at the time of his death.
The lawsuit deals another brutal (but not unwarranted) blow to SAE, who had already been suspended from operation for five years following a Cornell investigation into George’s death. “Local chapter officers and members” were also named as defendants in the suit, according to the AP, though their names have not yet surfaced.
Update: Here’s an ABC News video clip detailing the story. – C.B.
Update No.2: The Cornell Sun is now reporting that the lawsuit names 20 former SAE brothers and pledge members as defendants, in addition to the fraternity. – C.B.