Hazing suit: Utah State ignored frat’s ‘culture of drug, alcohol abuse’

By Brian Maffly
The Salt Lake Tribune
Utah State University officials long tolerated “a culture of drug and alcohol abuse” at a fraternity house where a teenage freshman pledge died of alcohol poisoning after an alleged hazing last fall, his family claims in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Logan’s 1st District Court.
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Charges dropped in Utah State U. frat hazing death

By Brian Maffly
The Salt Lake Tribune
With the blessing of prosecutors, hazing charges have been dismissed against four remaining defendants in the alcohol-poisoning death of a Utah State University fraternity pledge, putting to rest a criminal case that shook the Logan campus and brought attention to student alcohol abuse.
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Utah State University hazing charges could be dismissed

By Brian Maffly
The Salt Lake Tribune
Six months after Cache County filed hazing charges against 12 Utah State University students and their Greek-letter societies, no one stands convicted of hazing in connection with the November alcohol poisoning of fraternity pledge Michael Starks.

First District Judge Thomas Willmore has meted out punishment, including four jail sentences, but for offenses other than hazing — the crime of encouraging or inducing someone to engage in humiliating or dangerous behavior as a condition for membership in an organization.

Willmore is fielding motions to dismiss by the four remaining defendants, raising the possibility that the state’s first major hazing prosecution will result in no hazing convictions. But prosecutors are not dismayed.

“Our goal has been to bring focus on the issue of underage binge drinking and the prosecution has been successful in doing that,” said Tony Baird, Cache County’s chief criminal prosecutor. “We successfully prosecuted the person who had bought the bottle [of vodka], who brought the bottle, who had the bottle and then threw the bottle away.” Full story.

USU student sentenced to 14 days in hazing death

By Arrin Newton Brunson
Salt Lake Tribune
LOGAN, Utah — A judge sentenced 20-year-old Utah State University student Christopher Ammon to 14 days in jail and 200 hours of community service for his role in November’s drinking death involving a Sigma Nu pledge.

First District Judge Thomas Willmore also ordered Ammon to pay a $500 fine. Ammon pleaded no contest earlier this year after a misdemeanor hazing charge was changed to unlawful sale or supply of alcohol to a minor, also a class B misdemeanor.

Ammon was a Sigma Nu member who took 18-year-old freshman Michael Starks to a sorority for an abduction prank, but left before the alleged hazing occurred. Starks was pledging last fall to the now-defunct Sigma Nu chapter.

According to court papers, as a reward for being the group’s top pledge, fraternity members chose Starks to take part in the capture ritual involving Chi Omega, a neighboring sorority.

While in the company of several sorority members Nov. 20 at an off-campus home, Starks consumed a lethal amount of vodka. Full story.