On December 8th, 2013, Chun ‘Michael’ Deng, 19, was at an unsanctioned Pi Delta Psi fraternity event in the Pocono Mountains in the Tunkhannock Township in Pennsylvania. One day later, on December 9, 2013, he was pronounced dead of traumatic head injuries so severe that a doctor determined it would have required “hundreds of pounds of impulsive loads.” “Constellations of bruises spread across his cheeks, backs, and thighs” and he had traumatic asphyxia “likely from hits or tackles magnified” by the heavy load of the backpack he’d been forced to wear as part of of a hazing gauntlet known as the Glass Ceiling.
Deng, a freshman at Baruch College, was one of four pledges who traveled to the Poconos with more than 30 members of the fraternity the weekend of his death. During the Glass Ceiling ritual, the pledges were reportedly forced to wear weighted bags and navigate across the frozen yard through a gauntlet of fellow fraternity brothers while being repeatedly knocked to the ground. Deng complained that his head was hurting but continued to participate until finally being knocked unconscious.
Deng’s fraternity brothers carried him inside where they delayed seeking any medical assistance. Instead, of calling an ambulance as Deng lay dying from head trauma, the brothers instead telephoned Andy Meng, their National Fraternity President, who advised them to hide any fraternity items in the house. Some members left the house while others researched Deng’s symptoms online and changed his clothes. It would be over an hour before the fraternity brothers drove Deng to a local hospital. They chose to drive him instead of calling an ambulance because they thought the ambulance might cost too much money. The delays may have cost Deng his life as doctors believed he might have lived if he had been given prompt medical treatment.
The Beating Death of Michael Deng at the Hands of Pi Delta Psi
Deng’s death was ruled a homicide by Dr. Wayne Ross, a forensic pathologist, who found that Deng had been subjected to repeated blunt force trauma to three different organ systems of the body, including the head, torso and thighs.
DR. Ross offered the following opinions to a reasonable degree of medical certainty:
- Cause of death is multiple traumatic injuries
- There are at least three clear impacts to the head but there may be more. The forces were considered significant and severe. It would take hundreds of pounds of impulsive loads and/or hundreds of G forces in order to cause the damage to the interior of the brain.
- The massive bruise to the back is due to repeated blunt force impacts which resulted in traumatic asphyxia
- The bruises to the thighs are compatible with blunt force impact and/or restraint.
- The delay in treatment of 1-2 hours significantly contributed to the death of Mr. Deng The delay led to continued physiological stressors that resulted in primary neurogenic shock as well as secondary shock.
Pi Delta Psi fraternity charges
After months of investigation, a Grand Jury, which was convened last year, recommended charges to the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office to institute criminal proceedings in connection with the death of Chun Deng.
They are as follows:
- PA 18 Criminal Homicide (Murder Three), PA 18 2504 Involuntary Manslaughter, PA 18 Aggravated Assault, PA 18 2702 Simple Assault, PA 18 Hindering Apprehension, PA 24 5353 Hazing and PA 18 903 Criminal Conspiracy against the following:
i. Charles Lai
ii. Kenny Kwan
iii. Raymond Lam
iv. Daniel Li
v. Sheldon Wong
vi. Pi Delta Psi Fraternity Inc.
- PA 18 Aggravated Assault, PA 18 2702 Simple Assault, PA 18 Hindering Apprehension, PA 24 5353 Hazing and PA 18 903 Criminal Conspiracy against the following:
i. Steffen Loh
ii. Anthony Phung
iii. Steven Chen
- PA 18 2702 Simple Assault, PA 18 Hindering Apprehension, PA 24 5353 Hazing and PA 18 903 Criminal Conspiracy against the following:
i. David Chen
ii. Brian Choong
- PA 18 Hindering Apprehension, PA 24 5353 Hazing and PA 18 903 Criminal Conspiracy against 27 others.
Deng’s family have also filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Pi Delta Psi, which has been permanently banned from the college.
Despite prevention efforts, hazing persists on campuses
Despite the illegalization of hazing in 44 states and the implementation of anti-hazing efforts on school campuses across the U.S., hazing and other high risk acts continue. While hazing has been found in a wide variety of organizations — from sports teams, school bands, military groups and even honor societies — it is often those associated with Greek life who find themselves in the spotlight.
Nobody knows exactly how prevalent hazing on campuses because nobody is required to keep track or disclose all of the factual information. This is more than a college problem. It’s a culture problem.
The first step towards meaningful, permanent change starts with holding individuals and organizations accountable. It is essential that students, professionals, and mentors in educational institutions take immediate action to eliminate hazing.
Greek life, like other student organizational activities, is meant to teach loyalty, a sense of community and belonging. How did the fraternity brothers at Pi Delta Psi reconcile those ideals with delaying emergency treatment for their brother as he lay dying before them?
Hazing is everyone’s problem. That’s why it’s also everyone’s responsibility. How should we reconcile our responsibilities with what happened to Michael Deng?
These materials have been prepared by Cohen Seglias for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.