HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Members of a fraternity at New York City's Baruch College decided on Friday to waive their right to preliminary hearings in Pennsylvania on criminal charges related to the 2013 hazing death of a pledge at a rented house in the Pocono Mountains.
Nine of the 37 fraternity members charged in connection with the death of Chun “Michael” Deng, 19, of Oakland Park, New York, appeared before Magisterial District Judge Richard Claypool in Pocono Pines, Pennsylvania. At the last minute, eight of them opted to do without a hearing, and the ninth was granted a postponement.
The hearing would have given prosecutors their first opportunity to outline their cases against the fraternity members. Now the cases will advance to Monroe County Court of Common Pleas in Stroudsburg.
Deng died of brain and other injuries inflicted in December 2013 during a pledging ritual known as the “glass ceiling,” police say. Blindfolded and wearing a 30-pound pack, he was tackled repeatedly and slammed to the ground, they say.
The pack was supposed to represent the weight of Pi Delta Psi, which describes itself as an Asian-American cultural fraternity. The “glass ceiling” gauntlet is intended to symbolize the difficulties Asian-Americans experience in battling prejudice.
Deng's death is one of four associated with hazing rituals at U.S. university fraternities over the last three years. The social organizations, usually identified by Greek letters, have come under fire for physical and mental initiations that have sometimes turned brutal and demeaning.
The eight opting to forgo hearings are all from New York state: Allen Wong, 24, of Queens; Danny Chen, 23, of Maspeth; Theodore Sung, 20, of Valley Stream; Christopher Ly, 22, of Woodhaven; Benny Yan, 21, of Manhattan; Allen Chen, 21, of Flushing; Grant Chen, 24, of Flushing; and Curtis Chung, 20, of Elmhurst.
None of them, prosecutors say, took part in the assault on Deng, but they are alleged to have lied to the Pocono Mountain Regional Police or helped hide evidence. Each is charged with four felonies and one misdemeanor.
The ninth defendant, Andy Meng, 30, of Bayside, New York, asked for a postponement. Meng, who was national president of Pi Delta Psi at the time, is charged with starting the attempt to cover up the crimes with a phone call to fraternity members still at the house, which is about 96 miles west of New York City. He allegedly told them to hide anything that would connect the crimes to the fraternity.
Twenty-eight other members, including five charged with third-degree murder and aggravated assault, will have preliminary hearings at later dates.