Blog : California

“Experts call such victim-blaming ‘tortured rationalizations.'”

See the source imageA California father believes his 18-year-old son’s alcohol-related death was the result of a fraternity hazing ritual. The Orange County coroner’s office said Monday, Noah Domingo died from accidental alcohol poisoning.

Noah’s blood alcohol level was more than four times the legal limit, reports CBS News’ Jamie Yuccas. The UC Irvine freshman was found unresponsive after a party in January. His father said Noah was taking part in a dangerous and longstanding fraternity ritual. His death has already prompted Sigma Alpha Epsilon to close its chapter at UC Irvine indefinitely.

In a statement to CBS News, Dale Domingo said, “We have discovered the horrifying truth about fraternity hazing.” He contends the fraternity was conducting its “big brother night” ritual where “Noah was compelled to guzzle a so-called ‘family drink’ to become part of his big brother’s family.” He said, “It is why fraternities openly refer to this type of ritual as being one of the ‘deadly nights.'”

Authorities said Domingo died at about 3:30 in the morning, but the initial 911 call was some six hours later. The person who called 911 told the operator “he just drank, he just drank too much.”

Disputing the account in the 911 call, Noah’s father said his son did not just drink too much. He said experts call such victim-blaming “tortured rationalizations.”

Authorities are still investigating the circumstances leading to Domingo’s death and have not confirmed that hazing played a role.
In a statement, the university offered its “deepest sympathies to the Domingo family” and said “his death brings an urgent focus on alcohol and substance abuse.”

The focus on fraternity hazing has intensified in recent years with the deaths of Penn State sophomore Timothy Piazza and Florida State University fraternity member Andrew Coffey.

Just like other families impacted by college drinking deaths, Noah’s father said he will honor his son by doing everything he can to end hazing by fraternities and their members.

CBS News reached out to Sigma Alpha Epsilon regarding the confirmation of Domingo’s cause of death, but have not heard back.

©  2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. See the Full Report Here.

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Sigma Alpha Epsilon: Years of Misconduct and Hazing

Image result for SAE frat logo

Alcohol-related deaths at Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) chapters across the country have been going on for years. 

Incidents include, but unfortunately, not limited to:

  • The 2006 alleged alcohol-related hazing death of University of Texas freshman & SAE pledge, Tyler Cross, who fell to his death from the fifth-floor balcony of his off-campus dorm. Allegedly, in the days before Tyler’s death, he was subjected to hazing rituals that included beatings, forced consumption of alcohol and sleep deprivation.
  • The 2008 alcohol poisoning death of Cal Poly freshman and pledge, Carson Starkey, who died only hours after attending a “brown bag” event. Allegedly, when Carson passed out, fraternity members drove him to the hospital but turned around for fear of being arrested. Brothers then placed Carson on a mattress at the house, where he died. Police officials said that the death was the result of the crime of hazing while Carson was being initiated into Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Attorney Douglas Fierberg was honored to represent The Starkeys not only in their civil lawsuit but also in their pursuit to bring attention to the dangers of hazing and prevent other families from suffering as they did.
  • The 2009 alcohol poisoning death of University of Kansas freshman Jason Wren, who was found dead in his bed at the SAE house after a night of alleged binge drinking. Jason had only been with the fraternity for one week.
  • The 2011 hazing death of Cornell University student, George Desdunes, who was allegedly kidnapped and bound at his wrists and ankles with zip ties by SAE pledges as part of a longstanding fraternity ritual and compelled to consume alcohol until he lost consciousness. Instead of medical treatment,  George was taken to the fraternity house and placed on a couch where he was left to die. He was found later that morning by Cornell personnel, with zip ties still around his wrists and ankles. Attorney Douglas Fierberg was honored to represent George’s Mother, Marie Lourdes André, both in her civil lawsuit and in her efforts to obtain justice for George’s death by changing the way Cornell University handles claims of hazing. 

This conduct should not, and will not, be tolerated.

School Violence Law and The Fierberg National Law Group seek justice for victims of fraternity hazing and wrongful death by holding fraternities, fraternity chapters, fraternity members and schools accountable for their actions.  Our work continues, on behalf and in honor of the first family we represented (circa 1993) and for every one thereafter. We know this to be true.


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Cal Poly Sigma Pi Chapter Suspended Over Hazing Accusations

Last year’s tragic death of Collin Wiant, a pledge at the Sigma Pi fraternity at Ohio University, should have opened up Sigma Pi’s eyes to change its policies and practices……yet their ongoing incidents and misconduct continue across the U.S. 

The Sigma Pi fraternity has been suspended until June 15, 2019 and placed on social probation until Spring 2020 for violation of health and safety code, violation of alcohol use, violations of law, and violation of hazing and conspiracy to haze. The suspension is effective immediately, as of Monday, Jan. 14, according to Cal Poly Fraternity & Sorority Life.

Sigma Pi was investigated after the university received reports that the fraternity was involved in hazing recruits in Fall 2018. The hazing included humiliation of pledges, causing mental and emotional distress, according to University Spokesperson Matt Lazier. It is unknown how many reports of hazing the university received.

The fraternity was also found in violation of providing alcohol to pledges and minors during the recruitment and pledging process.

The university asked the Sigma Pi national chapter to review the chapter’s membership and the chapter’s executive board is required to complete an educational training, according to Lazier.

The fraternity received a notice of suspension Monday and was banned from Winter 2019 rush events, starting today.

The chapter has not commented on the sanctions at this time. Mustang News has reached out to the Cal Poly Interfraternity Council and Sigma Pi national headquarters, but have not received a response from either.

Sigma Pi is known on campus for their annual Suicide and Mental Health Awareness Week and for notable alumni, such as iCracked Founder AJ Forsythe. The chapter has 91 brothers as of 2018, according to their website.

This is the second fraternity found in violation of hazing this school year.

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UC Irvine Sigma Alpha Epsilon Chapter Suspended After Member Dies

Noah Domingo

After ONLY 1 WEEK of being back to classes, UC Irvine Fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, is Suspended as Police Investigate Death of 18-Year-Old Student.

Freshman Noah Domingo was found Saturday near the University of California, Irvine in a home off-campus. Irvine police received a call around 9:40 a.m. that Domingo was unresponsive and found him dead in a bed at the home, said Kim Mohr, a police spokeswoman.

Orange County coroner’s officials said Domingo died six hours earlier. The cause of his death is under investigation.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon is the same fraternity Cal Poly freshman Carson Starkey, who died from acute alcohol poisoning in a hazing ritual, was pledging in December 2008.

The entire staff at School Violence Law and The Fierberg National Law Group extend our sincere condolences to the family of Noah Domingo.



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Hazing seen as possible factor in UC Riverside student’s death

Though the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity website claims a strict no-hazing stance, the family of Tyler Hilliard claims hazing was a big part of his pledging experience.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) –An investigation is underway after a student at the University of California Riverside died in what may be a fraternity hazing incident.

Tyler Hilliard, 20, would have been a junior this year, majoring in engineering.

Police are waiting for the results of an autopsy, but did confirm they are investigating the possibility of hazing in his death.

His family says Tyler was going for a degree in physics at UCR and wanted to be an engineer.

They say he’d recently pledged at the fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha and that activities began in July.

According to the fraternity’s website, Alpha Phi Alpha has a strict no-hazing stance, and that anyone participating in hazing is a criminal.

But his family says hazing was a big part of the activities Hilliard was involved with. He was allegedly forced to eat items like an entire onion covered in hot sauce, forced to drink large amounts of water; and even paddled with a piece of cactus.

Click here to access the full article.

The entire staff at School Violence Law and The Fierberg National Law Group extend our sincere condolences to the family of Tyler Hilliard.

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Carson’s Story: A Hazing Death Remembered

We were lead counsel for the estate and family of Carson Starkey, who died as a result of being hazed during the pledge process of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at California Polytechnic University and San Luis Obispo.  The fraternity’s chapter had a long-standing ritual of hazing that included a “brown bag night,” an event celebrating and coupled with the pledges’ introduction to their respective big brothers.  This type of event, known widely as Big Brother Night,  is considered one of the “three deadly nights” by fraternities since it has historically involved binge drinking, family drinks, and the provision of dangerous quantities of alcohol to fraternity pledges.  Carson’s big brother selected a wide-array of alcohol for Carson to consume in the circle of pledges in order to demonstrate his commitment to brotherhood.  One fraternity officer also began passing around “everclear” for the pledges to drink, and Carson lost consciousness shortly thereafter.  Though fraternity members recognized his need for emergency medical attention, actually placing him in a car to go to the hospital, the fraternity members aborted the trip to the hospital, placed Carson on a mattress, and left him unattended.  His death was entirely preventable.   As always, the national fraternity, chapter, and members argued that they were not legally responsible for Carson’s death.  Extensive discovery was conducted that demonstrated the very opposite, and the motions filed by defendants to protect them from liability were denied by the court.  The case settled for a substantial confidential sum.  In negotiations, we (Carson’s family) were successful in negotiating substantial changes in the way Cal Poly permits fraternities to operate on its campus.  We were also successful in negotiating substantial changes in the way SAE operates, including compelling it to publicly report where it and its chapters have been sanctioned by universities for risk management violations.  Because colleges, administrators, legislatures, parents, students and others have been denied access to the “truth” about fraternity misconduct, the public health risks and dangers to college students have never been adequately understood and addressed.  And, fraternities have never been called upon to broadly account for the real dangers their traditions and unsupervised, dangerous practices pose.  This was the first time ever that such reporting has been done by a fraternity, whether voluntarily or compelled.  We also negotiated a substantial annual payment by SAE to the non-profit organization established by the Starkey family, Aware Awake Alive, that has been instrumental in changing laws across the country, educating students and families, and saving lives.  Carson’s Story has been shown to high school and college students and personnel across the country.

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Estate of Deceased College Student v. Theta Chi Fraternity, et al.

Were lead counsel for the estate and family of Philip Dhanens for a wrongful death lawsuit resulting from fraternity hazing by the Theta Chi Fraternity chapter at California State University at Fresno.  Fraternity pledges were compelled to drink dangerous amounts of alcohol on the evening they accepted their bid to pledge the fraternity.  Philip collapsed and was not taken to the hospital or properly monitored by fraternity members.  The case against all defendants, including the national fraternity, local chapter, and members, was resolved for a confidential significant financial amount at mediation.

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Estate of Matthew Carrington v. Chi Tau, et al.

Were lead counsel for the estate and family of Matthew Carrington, who died as a result of a fraternity hazing tradition that required pledges to consume gallons of water as a condition of joining the fraternity.  The fraternity chapter at the University of California, Chico had been expelled by the national fraternity for misconduct preceding Matt’s death.  Nevertheless, it continued to operate on its own and initiate members.  A lawsuit was filed against the national fraternity, former local chapter, and numerous fraternity members.  Motions filed by defendants to evade liability for Matt’s death were filed, opposed by our firm, and denied.  The case settled for a confidential substantial sum prior to trial.  Thereafter, we advised the family about necessary legislative changes and Matt’s Mom, Debbie Smith, convinced the California Legislature and Governor Schwarzenegger to enact “Matt’s Law,” which offers greater protection to and remedies for students and families harmed by fraternity hazing.  “Campus Nightmares,” a Lifetime Movie Network series, documents Matt’s life, the circumstances of his death, and has been viewed by thousands of people as part of the unending, successful efforts by Debbie Smith to educate the public about dangerous fraternity hazing and save lives.

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College Student v. Lambda Chi Alpha, et al.

With Ivo Labor, Esq., of San Francisco, California, retained by a student at San Diego State University who suffered a traumatic brain injury, resulting in serious and permanent impairment, following an evening of hazing by the fraternity and its members. The case is currently in litigation.

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Estate of Matthew Carrington v. Chi Tau, et al.

Represented the family of a college student who died during a local fraternity initiation at California State University at Chico.  Suit was filed in May 2005 against numerous individuals and fraternity organizations.  The case was settled with significant financial settlements from many of the defendants.  The case has been portrayed in numerous national stories concerning the dangers of hazing, and the client’s surviving mother was successful in causing passage of landmark anti-hazing legislation in California.

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