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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Activities & Organizations

Hazing allegations spell criminal, civil troubles for suspended fraternity


Fraternity hazing

The fraternity will appear Thursday at the Harris County Criminal Court in relation to the misdemeanor charges. | Courtesy of user i_am_jim via Wikimedia Commons

Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity is set to appear in court at 9 a.m. Thursday on a charge of hazing in connection to a 2016 incident involving their now-suspended UH chapter, according to court records.

The case — The State of Texas v. The Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity, Inc. — involves the fraternity’s UH chapter members depriving 2016 pledge and former UH student Jared Munoz of food, water and sleep, according to The Cougar’s December coverage. The charge is a Class B misdemeanor against the Tennessee-based fraternity, which could result in a fine up to $2,000.

The fraternity was indicted in December of 2017, but the Harris County District Attorney’s Office did not charge individual chapter members. The charge against the fraternity focuses on the treatment of Jared Munoz between Nov. 17-20 of 2016, according to previous coverage by The Cougar. The Harris District Attorney’s Office said pledges were forced to roll around in vomit, spit and feces during this time.

Misdemeanors are small crimes or offenses as opposed to felonies, which are serious crimes. Common misdemeanors include first DWI offenses and disorderly conduct offenses, according to Shouse California Law Group. Felonies include credit card abuse, aggravated assault and capital murder, according to The Texas Politics Project.

The court date has been rescheduled five times since Feb. 12 — the original date — according to court records.

Judge Larry Standley, presiding over the Harris County Criminal Court at Law No. 6, is assigned to the case.

Assistant District Attorney George Lindsey’s motion to protect Munoz’s medical records was granted by the court in February, according to court records.

In July 2017, the University of Houston suspended the fraternity until October 2023.

In addition to the criminal case, Munoz filed a civil lawsuit Sept. 18 seeking $1 million in monetary relief from the fraternity and 29 members, according to court records.

The lawsuit details Munoz’s alleged experiences as a fraternity pledge, such as being forced to engage in tackle football without protective gear and a “glow stick game,” during which Munoz suffered an injured spleen after being hit by Nicholas Augustine — one of the defendants in the civil lawsuit — causing him to spend five days in the Intensive Care Unit.

In an interview with ABC 13, Munoz said he’s thankful to be alive after being forced to roll around in human feces and drink scalding-hot beer as part of his hazing, in addition to undergoing physical abuse that hospitalized him.

Pi Kappa Alpha released a statement in response to the civil suit, saying the fraternity “doesn’t tolerate hazing, maltreatment of members or any activities that do not treat individuals with dignity and respect.”

The international fraternity suspended the UH chapter after learning of Munoz’s allegations, according to the statement, and they adopted a resolution supporting civil and criminal prosecution of individual members for acts of hazing, adding that the fraternity was disappointed that the District Attorney’s Office did not file criminal charges against the members who allegedly caused harm to Munoz.

The statement goes on dispute claims made in the civil lawsuit regarding an alleged bribe.

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