The death of Cornell student George Desdunes at the alleged hands of his frat brothers is now officially a matter of law. Four individuals–three of them known to be former Sigma Alpha Epsilon pledges, and a 19-year-old whose court records are sealed due to his age–were indicted yesterday for charges associated with Desdunes’ demise. The defendants, who pleaded not guilty, have been pegged with the misdemeanor crimes of first-degree hazing and first-degree unlawfully dealing with a child, according to the Cornell Daily Sun. SAE faces the same charges, and representatives of the frat will be summoned to court to deal with them–although considering that SAE has been disbanded at Cornell and its recognition rescinded by the university, it’s not totally clear who’s going to show on its behalf.
The four former frat brothers, among them Max Haskin, Benn Mann, and Edward Williams, have been released without bail and are now roaming free–although not on Cornell’s campus, since (according to a press release from the county DA) none are enrolled in the school any longer. Presumably they’re counting their lucky stars that they haven’t been charged with anything as serious as manslaughter. Still, the Sun reports that the attorneys plan to “vigorously contest” the allegations, and that the brothers don’t believe they’ve committed any crime.
Details of Desdunes’ death, an event that’s been shrouded in gossipy mystery for weeks, are also beginning to emerge. It’s already common knowledge that he died from alcohol poisoning, but authorities have since asserted that his blood alcohol level was 0.35 percent–more than four times the state’s legal limit. The Wall Street Journal has unearthed more information on the circumstances of this intoxication:
In the early morning hours before his death, Desdunes had consented to a mock kidnapping — a fraternity ritual in which pledges quiz brothers on fraternity lore. Desdunes and another brother had their hands and feet tied with zip ties and duct tape. When they answered questions incorrectly, the pair did exercises or were given drinks like flavored syrup or vodka. Pledges dropped him off at the Ivy League fraternity house after 5 a.m., according to court documents.
SAE has a history of such “kidnappings,” but no word on whether they also have a history of this kind of sadistically fruity bondage. They’ve claimed in the past that their “hazing” activities involve some level of complicity on the victims’ part, but having experienced flavored syrups firsthand, we find it hard to believe that someone would drink them with any degree of willingness. In all seriousness, though, the events of this case will hopefully shed some much-needed light on a form of fraternity stupidity that goes way beyond keg stands and ice luges.