HARRISBURG, Pa. (Reuters) - Fourteen more former fraternity members pleaded guilty to reduced charges and were sentenced to probation on Wednesday for the 2013 hazing death of a New York college freshman, a day after 15 men entered similar plea bargains in the case.
Altogether, 36 former members of Pi Delta Psi, an Asian-American cultural fraternity at Baruch College in Manhattan, were charged in the death of Chun “Michael” Deng, 19.
Deng died from head injuries suffered during a fraternity hazing initiation on Dec. 8, 2013, at a rented home in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania.
On Wednesday, 14 defendants pleaded guilty in Monroe County Court of Common Pleas in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, to misdemeanor charges including hindering apprehension, simple assault, hazing and conspiracy, said Assistant Monroe County District Attorney Kimberly Metzger.
Judge Margherita Patti-Worthington sentenced all 14 to probation, with former national fraternity president Andy Meng given the harshest punishment of 36 months probation. Meng is the brother of U.S. Representative Grace Meng of Queens, New York.
“I thought it should have been better,” said Meng’s defense lawyer, Michael Ventrella. “But you take a risk in going to trial and possibly getting a much worse sentence. They used him as sort of a scapegoat.”
Robert Munley, an attorney for defendant Steven Chen, who was given 18 months of probation, said: “I thought it was an appropriate outcome.”
In all of the plea bargains reached on Tuesday and Wednesday, the defendants pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges, reduced from felony crimes, such as hindering apprehension.
The toughest sentence in the case so far was given to fellow fraternity member, Ka-Wing Yuen, who pleaded guilty to similar offenses last January and was sentenced to five years of probation, 100 hours of community service, and a $100 fine. Yuen waited until the second day of his trial to plead guilty.
Four other defendants face prison time when they are sentenced on Monday after pleading guilty to felony charges of voluntary manslaughter and hindering apprehension. State sentencing guidelines recommend 22 to 36 months behind bars.
The national fraternity faces fines and suspension from operating in Pennsylvania at a January sentencing. Prosecutors and defense lawyers said it was the first U.S. fraternity to be convicted in a pledge hazing death.
Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb and Barbara Goldberg; editing by Andrew Hay and G Crosse