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Frat Leader Who Tried to Cover Up Hazing Death Pleads Not Guilty: Reports

By Noah Hurowitz | September 17, 2015 12:42pm
 Baruch freshman Chun Hsien
Baruch freshman Chun Hsien "Michael" Deng died on Monday after he was injured during a Pi Delta Psi fraternity ritual, officials said.
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Facebook/Pi Delta Psi Fraternity, Inc. and Bronx High School for Science

NEW YORK CITY — Five of the men charged in the hazing death of Baruch College freshman Chun Hsien "Michael" Deng were arraigned on Thursday, including the brother of a Queens congresswoman accused of trying to cover up the incident, according to court officials.

Andy Meng, the former national president of the Pi Delta Psi fraternity, pleaded not guilty on Thursday to charges of conspiracy, hindering apprehension, and hazing, according to Meng’s lawyer Todd Greenberg, after prosecutors accused him of encouraging frat members to hide the organization's involvement in Deng's 2013 death during a pledging ritual in the Poconos.

Sam Laio, Thomas Liu, Allen Wong and Aaron Chen — who face the same charges of hindering apprehension, hazing, and criminal conspiracy — also pleaded not guilty, Greenberg said.

 Congresswoman Grace Meng stood by her little brother Andy Meng, who prosecutors say tried to help cover up the incidents leading to the death of Baruch College freshman Michael Deng
Congresswoman Grace Meng stood by her little brother Andy Meng, who prosecutors say tried to help cover up the incidents leading to the death of Baruch College freshman Michael Deng
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DNAInfo/Nigel Chiwaya

A judge released the defendants on $50,000 unsecured bail and ordered them to return for a preliminary hearing on Oct. 16, he said.

A total of 37 former fraternity members were charged in connection to Deng's death, including five who face murder charges. It's not immediately clear when the others will be arraigned.

The hazing ritual that led to Deng's death, called "glass ceiling," took place in the early morning of Dec. 8, 2013, in the backyard of a Poconos home that Pi Delta Psi had rented for a pledging event.

During the brutal rite, the 19-year-old Deng was blindfolded and forced to carry a backpack with 20 to 30 pounds of sand along with several other pledges, according to court records. He then ran through a group of fraternity brothers with his hands crossed across his chest, as members repeatedly shoved and tackled him to the ground — sometimes taking running starts before slamming into him, court records show.

While the rest of the pledges took their beatings quietly, Deng fought back, kicking one of the fraternity members, records said. That's when "the 'bros' got mad" and started hitting him even harder, according to an investigation by a grand jury released by the Monroe County District Attorney's office on Tuesday.

A final tackle took Deng to the ground, and when he managed to get to his feet, his speaking was mumbled and he appeared dazed and unable to say the words pledges were ordered to repeat following the ritual, records show. He then collapsed and started making "snoring" sounds as he struggled to breathe, according to the testimony.

When the frat brothers realized Deng wasn't getting back up, they brought him inside the home, where they laid him down by the fireplace and tried to feed him water and sugar, hoping to revive him, the testimony said.

But Deng remained unresponsive, gasping for air and shivering, with his body "straight like a board," witnesses testified.

The court documents released by the DA Tuesday revealed even more chilling details behind Deng's death, including witness testimony depicting the fraternity members lying about what happened, scrambling to cover up the scene, and searching online and texting before seeking medical attention.

While Deng was unconscious, members of the fraternity used their phones to search symptoms, including "pupils won't dilate" and "snoring but won't wake up," according to court documents.

They also called the national fraternity's president, Andy Meng, who encouraged them to cover up all evidence tying the fraternity to the incident. Following his advice, they moved all fraternity notebooks and paddles with the frat's symbols to the trunks of their cars, according to the records.

"That's our protocol, like, we don't like to get our fraternity involved in certain problems because it creates certain problems for the fraternity," one member, Danny Chen, told investigators, according to court documents.

Following the charges presented Monday, Grace Meng said in a statement that she would support her brother.

"This young man's death was a terrible tragedy and our deepest condolences and prayers continue to go out to his family and friends," she said Tuesday afternoon. "I love my brother very much and as his sister, I'll be here for him as he goes through the legal process."

More than an hour had passed before three members carried a "deadweight" Deng to the car and took him to a local hospital in Wilkes Barre, Penn., records showed. By that point he was already in shock, investigators said.

At the hospital, as doctors tried in vain to revive Deng, members of the fraternity texted each other about getting their stories straight and repeatedly lied to investigators about their own involvement and that of the fraternity, according to the court documents.

Deng suffered massive head trauma and damage to his lungs, caused by repeated impacts to his rib cage.

"The delay in treatment of 1-2 hours significantly contributed to death of Mr. Deng," police said.

On Monday, the Pocono Mountain Regional Police Department announced that 37 people were facing charges in his death.

"I tell you, my son is a bright guy," Meng's mother, who asked to only be identified as Mary, told DNAinfo on Monday. "He is really kind and really nice guy. He really has a good heart, and I know if something happened, he would be the first to help. But no one even called 911 for help. That's what breaks my heart."

In the wake of Deng's death, Baruch College permanently banned the fraternity and suspended all pledging activities for Greek life groups on campus. Since the suspension, membership to fraternities and sororities has dropped from 200 to fewer than 100 from late 2013 to 2015, according to Baruch College spokeswoman Christina Latouf.

The college's president, Mitchel Wallerstein, said the school is seeking to minimize the presence of fraternities and sororities, emphasizing that fewer than 1 percent of the student body are members of the groups.

"Greek Life is a very small part of the undergraduate culture at Baruch, with less than 100 students participating in fraternities or sororities out of approximately 15,000 undergraduates enrolled at the college," Wallersteing said in a statement Tuesday. "Since the moratorium on pledging that began in the fall of 2014, student participation in Greek organizations has decreased even further due to the fact that these groups are not able to recruit new pledges/members."

Baruch has also brought unspecified disciplinary proceedings against all of the students involved in the incident, with the exception of any students who dropped out voluntarily, Wallerstein added.

The national organization Pi Delta Psi did not return repeated requests for comment.

Lawyers for Deng and Andy Meng did not respond to requests for comment.