The family of a New York City college freshman allegedly killed during a fraternity ritual called "The Gauntlet" has hired a top anti-hazing attorney and plans to sue.
The death of Michael Deng, 19, was ruled a homicide last week, and his parents are waiting for prosecutors to file charges before launching a civil case, lawyer Douglas Fierberg told NBC News.
"There will be civil litigation," said Fierberg, who has represented families all over the country in cases of student death and injury.
"Those responsible for his death — and there are a number of them as we understand it — will be held accountable to the full extent of the law."
Fierberg did not want to discuss possible targets of a suit until the police investigation is complete but said universities, national fraternities and local chapters have been named in other cases.
"This was their only child. They are now childless and devastated."
He said Deng's parents have been grieving since the Baruch College first-year student — "a multi-talented young man" — succumbed to head injuries during a Pi Delta Psi gathering at a rented house in Pennsylvania's Poconos in early December.
"This was their only child," he said. "They are now childless and devastated.'
Court papers say fraternity members repeatedly tackled pledges who had been blindfolded and weighed down with sand-filled backpacks in the freezing dark.
Deng was knocked unconscious, but instead of immediately dialing 911, his schoolmates Googled his symptoms, waiting an hour before they drove him to the local hospital, court papers alleged.
Frat members were initially "evasive" with investigators, police said. The victim's "big brother" allegedly made a call from the hospital, telling others to get rid of anything that would identify them as fraternity members, according to a police affidavit.
Authorities ultimately seized a heap of frat regalia, along with suspected marijuana, hallucinogenic mushrooms and paddles at the house, although some students left before they could be interviewed.
Pocono Regional Mountain Police Chief Harry Lewis said last week that investigators had made a lot of progress in the two-month probe but "in a case like this where so many people were involved, we want to make sure every possible witness is located and interviewed."
Efforts to reach the students named in court papers have been unsuccessful.
Pi Delta Psi's national organization said the gathering was unsanctioned and in violation of its policies and it shut down the Baruch chapter.
Officials at the city-run college said they were not told about the retreat and permanently banned the fraternity, which describes itself as an Asian-American cultural group.
A spokeswoman for Baruch said last week that it had not been contacted by Deng's family about possible litigation. The fraternity did not return calls for comment.
CARLO ALLEGRI / Reuters file
Michael Deng was a freshman at Baruch College.
First published February 20 2014, 1:43 AM