Blog : Media

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.

Please follow and like us:

Family Says 5 Yr. Old Girl was Sexually Assaulted at Plymouth, MI Church During Sunday School

On January 3rd, the family of Jane Doe, a minor, filed a lawsuit in the Third Circuit Court in Wayne County, MI against The First Presbyterian Church of Plymouth and two of its employees, seeking accountability and justice for sexual abuse that was perpetrated by a third-party adult male against five-year-old Jane Doe during Sunday School at the Church.

On Palm Sunday 2017, Jane Doe’s parents entrusted Jane’s safety and well-being to the Church and its employees during Sunday School. Despite representations and assurances to the Doe family that Jane would be properly supervised at all times, two Church employees responsible for the Sunday School class allowed her to leave the classroom alone and unsupervised. In the 20 minutes that Jane was missing from the classroom, her absence unnoticed by Sunday School teachers, an adult man took Jane into the bathroom and sexually assaulted her. Even though the Does reported the abuse to the Church the next day, the Church failed to notify other parents that a child had been sexually abused on Church premises, or that the police were investigating, for nearly a month. During that time, other families continued to leave their children in the Church’s care, unaware of the unresolved danger.

The Does’ lawsuit alleges that the Church allowed anyone who entered the Church unfettered access to Sunday School children, understaffed its Sunday School program, and failed to properly train or supervise its employees. Because of the Church’s failure to implement the most basic safety measures to protect, or even record who was allowed access to, children in the Sunday School program, law enforcement—despite conducting a lengthy investigation that included DNA evidence—has been unable to identify the man who assaulted Jane Doe, and the perpetrator remains at large, continuing to pose a risk to children in the community.

The Doe family, represented by The Fierberg National Law Group attorney, Monica Beck, brings this lawsuit to seek justice for Jane, to incite change in the Church’s policies, practices, and attitudes toward the safety of children entrusted to its care, and to ensure that no other child or family suffer as they have. “Our churches must be the safest communities for children and the least safe for those who hurt them. When the church fails to protect and advocate for the little ones in our midst, it fails to reflect the very heart of Jesus,” said Boz Tchividjian, a consulting attorney specializing in issues related to child abuse and protection in church communities. By speaking out, the Doe family hopes to end the silence around child sexual abuse, raise awareness about a culture that minimizes and covers up abuse occurring within religious institutions, and hold the Church and its leadership accountable for events that have forever changed their lives.

See the Local News Coverage Here:  WJBK-TV 2 FOX DetroitWDIV-TV 4 NBC Detroit, and WXYZ-TV 7 ABC Detroit

 

Please follow and like us:

Miami University of Ohio Changes Their Fraternity Guidelines

Miami University of Ohio fraternity and sorority members recently received a message addressing changes and recommendations that will be implemented in their community over the next year. These changes are meant to set a new standard for fraternities – one that focuses on brotherhood, leadership, and accountability.

It is no secret that in the last several years, their fraternity community has come under scrutiny for unhealthy decision making – some of which led to suspensions of organizations. In October 2016, attorney Doug Fierberg presented at the Miami OH campus: Campus Sexual Violence: Student Rights, University Responsibilities and Legal Liability in the Hunting Ground confronting these issues.

We here at School Violence Law and The Fierberg National Law Group are happy to see flagged issues being undertaken with mature management.

Below is the text from the email that Greek students received.

Dear Members of the Miami University Fraternity & Sorority Community:

Miami has long been a leader in the fraternal movement. We have consistently talked about creating a “model Greek community” at Miami – one where students live their values, bring out the best in each other, hold one another accountable, and are role models on campus and across the country.

As we look to the future, we also must look at our past. There is no denying the fact that systemic issues in our community have led to concerning health and safety risks to students – in particular to the newest members of our Interfraternity Council community.

Over the course of the next year, you will see specific changes to fraternity life here at Miami. These changes were developed by a diverse team of committed fraternity stakeholders – students, chapter advisors, alumni, headquarters partners, housing corporation board officers, and staff. The committee evaluated data, reports, and other university standards to determine what would help promote safety and advance the fraternal experience at Miami. It was not an easy task, and the challenges posed to the committee were great, however, we firmly believe these changes will strengthen principles and limit risk among our fraternity chapters.

A few major changes that you will see include:

*             In spring semester 2019 and going forward, fraternity new members will need to complete online training courses on leadership and accountability.

*             The new member period will be changed to four weeks rather than eight.

*             In the recruitment period of spring 2020, all new members will be required to have a GPA of at least 2.75 (up from 2.5) to join a fraternity.

*             Live-in house directors will be required for fraternities to receive the second year exemption.

While we know that policies alone cannot change a culture, the changes are expected to:

*             Foster a culture that develops and rewards student leadership through participation in a fraternity.

*             Focus on academic excellence and student success.

*             Address the nationwide challenges of hazing, high-risk alcohol, and drug use while holding students and chapters accountable for standards.

Please know we are invested in navigating these changes and working together to create a sustainable community that upholds the Love & Honor of Miami. Communication and transparency will be consistent and necessary as we move forward.

Thank you for your dedication and investment in making your community one we can all be proud of.

The Cliff Alexander Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life 

Read More Here

Please follow and like us:

“I Am A College Linebacker Tackling Sexual Assault: Why I Oppose The Proposed Title IX Rule Changes”

Kyle Richard Brand Contributor | Civic Nation BRANDVOICE | Dec 18, 2018, 02:26pm

Kyle Richard, senior kinesiology major at SUNY Cortland, is a guest contributor for It’s On Us.

It was July 23rd, 2017, at 2am. My friends and I were at a party when a young male attempted to sexually assault a young woman. My friend, Sulaiman Aina, and I were directly able to break it up. Moments after speaking with the victim to clarify what was happening, I immediately went to look for the perpetrator. With him still in front of the house, I went to confront him. In the process of my sticking up for the victim, the perpetrator pulled a gun out and let off three shots, two bullets tearing through each of my legs and the last one sailing past me. Thirty seconds later the perpetrator shot at my friends, who had just gotten back from the diner. My friend, Michael Abiola, was shot in his shoulder and would recover more than a year later.

The world needs to know that this is no sob story. This is a story that has promoted bystander intervention and raised sexual violence awareness for thousands of people.

In the process of my sticking up for the victim, the perpetrator pulled a gun out and let off three shots, two bullets tearing through each of my legs and the last one sailing past me.

Being a student-athlete at SUNY Cortland, my dream after the incident was simply to get back to being able to play football. Only two months of rehab and I was just good enough to get back onto that field. I did not think much of what Sulaiman and I had done that early morning in July. In my head, what had happened that night was something that most people would do. Through research and personal stories that involved active bystanders, there was a realization that we live in a toxic culture that needs change. Now I speak out, usually while wearing my Cortland Football collared shirt, at a variety of events to spread awareness. If one football player can take a stand against sexual violence, maybe another athlete will.

One classmate spreading awareness will make other classmates spread awareness. Student leaders organizing and maximizing sexual/domestic violence awareness clubs will get more people involved. Fraternity leaders holding their brothers to a higher standard to treat people with respect. These should all be considered forms of bystander intervention in relationship with this toxic culture.

Now I speak out, usually while wearing my Cortland Football collared shirt, at a variety of events to spread awareness.

It is important for young men to fight against sexual assault, because the overwhelming majority of perpetrators are “male.” (I use male, not men, when describing perpetrators because I believe being a man means treating people with respect). Since we young men are so close to the root of the problem, we can be major leaders in changing rape culture. My message to athletes and other young men is that by standing up for somebody, known or random, you can become a hero in a person’s life. Be the person who tells somebody if there is no consent, there is no sex. Be the person who speaks out for campus safety.

That’s why I know the proposed rule changes to Title IX are disastrous—and something young men like myself have a responsibility to speak out against. Since joining the Trump administration in 2017 Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her team have claimed these changes to Title IX are intended to protect young men on campus. But I know—and young men all across this nation know—that these changes are really intended to sweep campus sexual assault under the rug and reduce the liability of colleges. We won’t be pawns in Sec. DeVos’s game. We will speak out against these changes.

Her plan to make off-campus incidents non-investigable, by the school the perpetrator and/or the victim attend, is unacceptable. In order to hold their perpetrators accountable, victims would have to face their perpetrators through live hearings. Meanwhile, their perpetrators will roam freely on campus until the misconduct investigation is completed. Victims already have trouble receiving justice. With the proposed Title IX rule changes, perpetrators will be more protected than ever before. We should be looking to support and believe the victims, not hurt them.

If you’re reading this go ahead and leave a comment that the department of education must read and respond to by visiting ItsOnUs.org/TitleIX. Help stop these rule changes!

Kyle Richard is an advocate for sexual violence prevention and bystander intervention. He works in connection with It’s On Us in the SUNY Cortland chapter. He is a senior kinesiology major at SUNY Cortland. Kyle has spoken at several educational institutions such as Stevens Institute of Technology, Cortland High School, Utica College, SUNY Cortland, Fashion Institute of Technology, etc.

 

Full Article Here

Please follow and like us:

What is the future of fraternities on college campuses?

By: James Patterson | Education Dive | November 13, 2018

After four student deaths in 2017 and pressure from parents, colleges are cracking down — but just how far they’ll go is still to be determined.

E. Gordon Gee, the professorial president of West Virginia University who favors bow ties and once described himself as “quirky as hell,” pauses for a moment and sighs when asked whether he thinks it’s possible to improve the fractured relationship between fraternities and colleges across the country.

Although he may seem like their antithesis, and his response to their misbehavior on his campus has been by most accounts no-nonsense, he says he’s optimistic.

“They are going to continue to play a role, and it could be a positive one. So rather than ignore them and put them aside, let’s find a way to make them cheerful, friendly and engaged members of the university community,” says Gee, who recently banned five fraternities for 10 or more years after they refused to obey new rules he implemented following reports of hazing and drug and alcohol abuse.

He’s not the only college leader of late to crack down on fraternities for misconduct. This fall, the University of Iowa and Monmouth Universitysuspended theirs, and other institutions such as the University of NebraskaNorthwestern University, the University of Arizona and the University of Connecticut have taken similar actions in recent years.

Disparate views about the future of fraternities have included suggestions they be disbanded or even unbridled and self-governed. Yet Gee and others seem adamant that fraternities have a place in higher education, though they agree a solution to the present issues is needed now. The most recent catalyst: four student deaths as a result of hazing activity in 2017 alone. The spate followed a near half-century period during which at least one hazing death was recorded per year, according to Franklin College Professor Hank Nuwer, who has gained attention for his meticulous tracking of incidents.

College leaders and others say those solutions include stricter limits for fraternities around pledging and alcohol use, higher levels of direct supervision, more stringent state laws and better tactics for getting fraternities to self-police, the latter led more forcefully by their national and campus organizations.

But fraternities’ long histories at their universities and deep ties within alumni networks makes cracking down a major challenge.

A SHIFTING TIDE

The problem, says Nicholas Syrett, a professor at the University of Kansas and author of “The Company He Keeps: A History of White College Fraternities,” stems from the deeply rooted traditions intrinsic to fraternities and the heavy doses of male bonding that go along with them.

“Many young men arrive on campus very much hoping that their college experience will involve excessive drinking at fraternity parties. They want what they think of as the classic fraternity experience, complete with parties, pledging and hazing,” Syrett says. “The men who most fit that ideal even before getting to college join fraternities and they encourage one another to continue the tradition. It’s a bit like a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Under that broader umbrella, loose-knit “rogue” groups that “act with impunity” challenge colleges and universities that often feel they don’t have sufficient tools to monitor or oversee them, says Paul Zingg, former president of California State University, Chico, where the hazing death of 21-year-old Matthew Carrington in 2005 prompted the formation of the nonprofit Anti-Hazing Awareness (AHA!) Movement, founded by Carrington’s mother Debbie Smith.

“Greek misbehavior takes place on most campuses,” Zingg says. Efforts such as that by AHA!, which Zingg supports, hope to change that. Its work resulted in the passage of Matt’s Law in California, which allows for felony prosecutions and broader law enforcement powers for hazing.      

Smith isn’t the only parent pushing back, and that pressure is spurring colleges and universities to step up. Following Penn State University sophomore Timothy Piazza’s death in 2017 as a result of injuries sustained during a night of drinking at a fraternity event, the university became a center of activity related to fraternity safety.

Piazza’s parents were active in pushing for greater oversight of fraternities, and Penn State President Eric Barron clamped down the groups on his campus and began collaborating with the presidents of other universities where hazing-related deaths had occurred recently to find solutions.

Their efforts were also critical to recently passed legislation in Pennsylvania, which strengthens penalties for hazing and makes it a felony if it results in serious injury or death. Pennsylvania is the 12th state with such a law on its books. The bill was promoted by an energetic, newly formed coalition of affected parents and fraternities and anti-hazing groups, which will soon release a set of proposed state laws they intend to advance nationwide. As with Matt’s Law, the one in Pennsylvania is named after Piazza.

RAISING ACCOUNTABILITY ON CAMPUS

In addition to changing the law, affected colleges, families and other groups are looking within the institution. Some colleges have established firm rules about alcohol consumption on campus, have moved troublesome freshman pledge activities to the spring or eliminated them entirely, and more quickly suspend offending fraternities, says John Hechinger, a senior editor at Bloomberg News and author of the book “True Gentlemen: The Broken Pledge of America’s Fraternities,” which looks at fraternity culture and their future on campuses. Others require members meet certain academic performance or community service requirements.

“Information travels faster, the events are better documented and it’s harder for them to be swept under the rug,” Hechinger says. “Colleges have had to respond.”

This past April, Barron co-led a meeting of more than 30 college officials to examine challenges, complications and ways to collaborate on new approaches. One of those approaches is a national scorecard, which Penn State developed for its campus to keep track of outcomes for fraternities such as GPA, community service hours and violations pertaining to hazing, alcohol or sexual assault.

“We now have inserted ourselves into the lives of these students in ways never done at Penn State, and rarely, if ever, done in any large public university,” says Damon Sims, the university’s vice president for student affairs. He says Penn State staff is now on-hand at social activities and handles the discipline of members who violate behavior policies.

“They are going to continue to play a role, and it could be a positive one. So rather than ignore them and put them aside, let’s find a way to make them cheerful, friendly and engaged members of the university community.” – E. Gordon Gee, President, West Virginia University

Scorecards or publication of fraternity records on alcohol-related hospitalizations could be powerful tools for colleges, Hechinger says, along with potentially “taxing” participants at campus events where alcohol is served or requiring parents to buy large liability insurance policies so they have a financial incentive to reduce risky behavior.

Douglas Fierberg, an attorney representing families in fraternity misconduct cases, says to control behavior universities must be more transparent about fraternity problems. He says even heralded disclosure efforts like Penn State’s are too vague and that universities too often protect the groups. He also says the common chapter self-management model should be replaced with university oversight, pledging should be banned and alcohol consumption should be prohibited without proper adult supervision.

“Fraternities are knowingly isolated from meaningful adult management and supervision and are therefore unreasonably dangerous,” he says.

IS BETTER OVERSIGHT POSSIBLE?

College leaders have successful lessons from the past to call upon. Hechinger notes in his book that soon after former University of Rhode Island President David Carothers was hired in 1991 he found the university had gained an unwanted reputation for its social life. Kegs were seen at commencement, the institution’s initials URI became synonymous with “you are high,” and many students were regularly hospitalized for alcohol poisoning.

Carothers took what Hechinger says proved to be effective action: banning alcohol from all university-sponsored social events on campus, suspending students for two semesters if they violated the policy and kicking out repeatedly offending fraternities — even bulldozing some houses or taking them over as administrative buildings. The action, Hechinger wrote, “all but eliminated the kind of tragic alcohol-related deaths that had been a regular occurrence,” improved behavior generally and drew more successful students to the university.

It also didn’t result in the backlash that Carothers expected and many administrators fear when they restrict fraternities, which are quick and aggressive in their own defense and often have powerful support.

“Colleges have shown a lot more backbone and shut down chapters, and parents have put pressure on colleges and states to do something, but without powerful and sustained pressure, some fraternities aren’t likely to change,” says Hechinger. He and others note that fraternity members are often held up as leaders on campus, their presence is a recruiting tool and they have strong connections to important donors and community leaders.

Zingg and others stress that fraternities’ leadership at the chapter and national levels should be held more accountable for members’ behavior and its consequences.

“Colleges have shown a lot more backbone and shut down chapters, and parents have put pressure on colleges and states to do something, but without powerful and sustained pressure, some fraternities aren’t likely to change.” – John Hechinger, Journalist and Author

Some have stepped up, establishing firm standards for their groups about consent, alcohol abuse and hazing. For example, the 66-member North-American Interfraternity Conference joined the coalition that is seeking tighter state laws on hazing and has banned hard liquor at the facilities of its participating fraternities beginning next fall. The move affects more than 6,100 chapters on 800 college campuses.

Hechinger’s book tracks several leaders who have against the odds sought to clean up their chapters. Gee says strong leaders and thoughtful university student affairs professionals were critical when he was at chancellor at Vanderbilt University from 2000 to 2007, where 35% of men were in fraternities in 2010 and where, he said, there was more cooperation between the university and Greek organizations.

Selecting the right people in those positions and training them on how to avoid problems is key, he says, particularly fraternity leaders. A clear institutional policy is critical, fraternities must be informed about it and have reasonable say in its formation, and the policy must be enforced.

“They have to step up and take responsibility for the behavior of their members, and they will,” Gee says. “They and their members have to be held accountable if they don’t.”

Correction: This article has been updated to correct that Timothy Piazza was a sophomore at Penn State.

View Article Here

Please follow and like us:

University of Iowa Fraternities Booted from Campus for Alcohol & Hazing Violations

Aimee Breaux, Iowa City Press-Citizen

Published 6:40 p.m. CT Dec. 13, 2018 | Updated 8:22 a.m. CT Dec. 14, 2018

Four fraternity chapters have been removed from the University of Iowa, following a two-month investigation spurred by multiple alcohol-related incidents, including one death. School officials announced the chapter removals during a news conference Thursday night.

Delta Chi, Sigma Nu, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and the UI chapter of Kappa Sigma International Fraternity were banned from operating as student organizations at the University of Iowa.

The Kappa Sigma chapter, called the Beta-Rho chapter, was also removed from the national organization following allegations of hazing. University officials declined to elaborate on the hazing events that provoked the removal of Beta-Rho Thursday.

The news is the latest in a crackdown on drinking violations at University of Iowa fraternities. Fraternities have been banned from holding events with alcohol after a University of Iowa student died at an out-of-state fraternity formal in 2017.

Twelve chapters were temporarily suspended in September and October for violating that moratorium.

In issuing the suspensions, university officials cited complaints to police and complaints about tailgating events hosted by the fraternities during football seasons. According to notices sent to students,police reported concerns of overdoses and alcohol poisoning at the various tailgates. At some tailgates, Iowa City police reported criminalmischief, loud parties, beer cans being thrown and unconscious individuals.

Following the two-month investigation into the allegations, two fraternities, Phi Kappa Psi and Sigma Chi, were cleared. According to officials, there was not a “preponderance of evidence to find the chapter responsible for allegations, including tailgates.”

Six other fraternities — Acacia, Beta Theta Pi, Pi Kappa Alpha, Pi Kappa Phi, Sigma Phi Epsilon, Sigma Pi and Phi Delta Theta — were placed on probation following the initial investigation results. Phi Delta Theta was placed on deferred suspension.

The fraternities have until Jan. 11 to appeal the investigation findings.

Melissa Shivers, vice president for Student Life, said the timing of the news was not ideal, but university officials wanted to give students living in the fraternity residences time to make other living arrangements if needed.

Fraternity houses are not operated by the university.

In the midst of the investigation and subsequent punishment, students and faculty have been working on a “Strategic Plan” to improve fraternity and sorority life on campus, including improving “risk management, health and safety.” 

The plan will be announced no later than spring 2019. 

Princeton Review has considered UI to be one of the top 20 party schools in the U.S. Princeton Review considered UI the No.2 on that list in 2015. 

So what are your thoughts on this suspension? 

Please follow and like us:

Your Voice Counts: New Title IX Draft Rule on School Sexual Violence & How to Draft a Comment

By now you have likely heard that the U.S. Department of Education recently published a proposed Title IX regulation that would fundamentally change schools’ responsibilities to respond to sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence in our K-12 schools and college campuses. Right now, it is only a draft rule and there is an opportunity for anyone in the public to voice your opinion during the formal Notice and Comment period until January 28.

The Fierberg National Law Group invites you to a webinar to learn about the proposed rule and how to write and submit a comment.

The webinar is Wednesday, December 19th, 2:00-3:30 PM EST and will be hosted by the Ending Violence Against Women Project of CDAC and the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault and features national Title IX expert and TFNLG attorney, Cari Simon.

Register Here: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/540751208931213827

#handsofftitleix #titleix #knowyourix @universityeeo 

Please follow and like us:

CHRISTINA MAIRE & HIS GROUP POSED AS TEENAGE BOYS TO MANIPULATE TEENAGE GIRLS TO DO SEXUAL ACTS ONLINE

Tresa Baldas, Detroit Free Press

December 6, 2018

They were dubbed the “Bored Group” —  nine online predators who targeted vulnerable teenage girls on the Internet, manipulating them into performing sex acts online and even convincing some to cut themselves while they watched.

For five years, they pretended to be teenage boys.

But on Wednesday, the grown men who lurked behind the computer screens came face to face with some of their victims in U.S. District Court in Detroit, where the still-traumatized victims persuaded a judge to lock the men up for decades for robbing their innocence and trust, and for destroying their childhoods.

“Thinking back to those days causes me to cry myself to sleep, wondering when the monsters will stop haunting me,” one victim told the judge.

Christian Maire

The accused ringleader is Christian Maire, a 40-year-old married father of two from New York who was sentenced to 40 years in prison for running an online porn operation that sexually exploited more than 100 girls nationwide, including an Oakland County girl who helped the FBI bust the scheme in 2017.

The operation started in 2012, though arrests did not occur for another five years. Indictments followed.

According to court records, here is how the ‘Bored Group’s’ enterprise worked:

Each member had a role. The “hunters” sought out girls on social media sites and lured them to the un-monitored chat rooms. Once there, the “talkers” took over, convincing girls to undress and engage in sexual activity by talking to them about a variety of subjects, like school, family, sports and sex. The “loopers” were used to entice the girls by playing previously recorded videos of teen boys performing sex acts in a chatroom. The “loopers”  pretended to be the teenage boys in the video, which they used to convince the girls to do the same things.

The “Bored Group” even had a plan for vulnerable victims. If a girl was suicidal or revealed that she was cutting herself, the group held a “trust-building session”  that involved sensitive chats about life and the girl’s worth. The goal was to win the girl’s trust for one reason: “so that she would eventually undress and/or masturbate on a web camera,” prosecutors wrote in court documents.

The group’s victims ranged in ages 10-17. They include a girl who was coerced into having sex with her dog, another who was encouraged to masturbate with a banana, and an elite ballet dancer who battled loneliness and anxiety and was manipulated into making more than 60 videos of herself engaged in sexual activity.

The case was prosecuted in Detroit, where Maire on Wednesday pleaded with the judge through tears for a chance to rehabilitate himself.

“I’m really so ashamed of myself and all the harm I’ve caused my victims,” Maire told U.S. District Judge Stephen Murphy, sobbing at times. “I never knew I could sink this low …  but I am sick. Pornography led me down a very dark road. If I was here as a parent instead of a defendant, I would be devastated.”

Maire had three supporters speak on his behalf in court Wednesday: a Greek Orthodox priest who said he took Maire’s confession and that he appeared genuinely remorseful; a family friend who is a judge in Georgia, and his father, who apologized to the victims.

“My heart goes out to the victims for the trauma my son has caused … I am truly appalled by his actions,” said the father, who described his son as a loving and doting father who used his college education to grow a fledgling company.

“We’re still struggling to understand what he did,” the father said. “He’s an addict battling an addiction. With proper counseling, he can leave prison a better man … I still love him.”

As Maire’s supporters asked for leniency, a victim in the courtroom whispered to a friend: “But they asked girls to cut themselves.”

‘I was blackmailed’

Several parents and victims attended the sentencing. Some spoke while others sat quietly as the victims told their gut-wrenching stories.

“I am a 20-year-old girl standing here today, facing the monsters that destroyed my childhood due to child exploitation,” said a New Orleans woman, who was lured into the scheme when she was 16. “The internet was my escape from depression that I didn’t know I had at the time.”

Eventually, she started making videos and joined chat rooms, where she met the predators who were pretending to be teen boys.

“I enjoyed having ‘friends’ to talk to every day. They were always there no matter what time of day,” she told the judge.

But then came the blackmail. After flirting in the chat rooms and cultivating an online friendship, one of the men recorded her on video.

“From then on, I was blackmailed into doing things I didn’t want to do. They would threaten to come to my house and hurt my family and I. They even named everyone in my house, so I knew that these threats were serious,” she said. “They would tell me to take off my clothes and touch myself in sexual ways. So, I would try to accommodate their desires because I was scared.”

She added: “Every time I would do so, they would record me and blackmail me over and over again, which turned into an intimidating and vicious cycle.”

Then came the suicide attempts.

“I started hurting myself and I was in and out of the hospital for self-harm and attempted suicide,” she said. “I know they knew I was hurting because they would watch me cry and some would even ask me to self-harm while they watched.”

To this day, the Louisiana woman said, she can’t use a computer. “The tragic pain this has caused me still eats my soul … After all those years of hurt, I struggle with self-love, anxiety, and depression.”

‘Get them help’

Another victim – a 14-year-old girl who was 10 when the men exploited her online – told the judge she “regretted 100 percent” going into the chat room. But at the time, she was young, bullied and teased at school, and she longed for friends.

“I was manipulated … they told me I was special and that they loved me,” the girl recalled. “I thought I was special but I was just pleasing these sick people … I want this to be over with. I’m tired.”

The 14-year-old’s mother also spoke in court, saying her daughter has had night terrors almost every night and struggles with normal activities and school because of the predators.

Then she briefly looked up at the eight defendants sitting side by side in court: half of them hung their heads; the others had blank expressions.

“I look at these guys here —  not one of them looks like they care. They got what they wanted,” the mother said, adding her daughter “just wants a normal life.”

The mother urged the judge to give her daughter and the other victims justice, though she was merciful in her request.

“Get them help,” she said of the defendants. “They need help — as much, if not more than my daughter.”

Hundreds of victims

Prosecutors had asked for a life sentence for Maire, calling him a chronic liar and manipulator who masterminded an “egregious crime syndicate” that sexually exploited and psychologically scarred preteen and teenage girls.

For reasons unknown, the group typically included the word “bored” in the title of their chatrooms, such as justsoboared, borednstuff, and boredascanbe — hence the name “Bored Group.”

“They hunted girls. They lied to girls. They manipulated girls … And they did so repeatedly for years, victimizing more than 100 girls,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Mulcahy has argued in court documents, stressing Maire, the “educated, worldly leader of the group, orchestrated it all.”

In court Wednesday, Mulcahy scoffed at Maire’s claims that he quit the child pornography ring out of shame six months before his 2017 arrest.

“It wasn’t shame and remorse, it was the fear of getting caught,” Mulcahy said, alleging Maire had been tipped off by one of his cohorts that the FBI was onto them.

According to prosecutors, Maire ran the scheme with the help of accomplices from across the country who preyed on vulnerable girls who are still struggling to cope.

“Almost all if not all of the minor victims in this case are depressed or in therapy, and several have suicidal intentions,” Assistant U.S. Attorney April Russo stated in court documents. “Some of them have attempted suicide.”

In the end, it was an Oakland County victim who helped the FBI piece the case together, triggering arrests and charges.

According to court records, the now 17-year-old Oakland County girl was tricked into posing nude on a webcam for the “Bored Group.” Among those who sexually exploited her was Maire, who had numerous explicit conversations with the girl when she was 14, records show.

The FBI interviewed the Oakland County girl in June 2017, when she told agents that she had “consistently” been in a chat room with four to five individuals whom she believed to be teenage boys. These people, she told the agents, enticed her to show them her naked body and perform sexually explicit acts while on a webcam.

After that interview, the FBI followed an electronic trail of evidence that led them to the other suspects, including Arthur Simpatico, 47, of Mississauga, Ontario, who was sentenced to 37 years in prison on Wednesday for his role. Prosecutors described him as a “callous” predator who was considered the “best of the best” at recruiting girls in the group and used his technological skills to help the group avoid detection by law enforcement.

It was Simpatico, prosecutors said, who tipped off the crew about the FBI being onto them.

In court Wednesday, Simpatico said from the lectern, handcuffed and shackled in orange jail garb: “I just want to apologize to anyone I’ve hurt. That was not my intention. I can’t take it back. I hope to be a better person in the future.”

In handing down the punishments, Judge Murphy expressed concerns about the dangerous nature of the Internet and said a message needs to be sent to online predators that their actions carry a stiff penalty.

“The amount of psychological damage done to the victims is of a very serious concern,” Murphy said. “This behavior deserves an extremely serious punishment … The Internet has obviously gotten out of control.”

Sentencing will continue Thursday.

The other defendants are:

Jonathan Rodriguez, 37, of West Hollywood, California

Michal Figura, 36, of Swarthmore, Pennylvania

Odell Ortega, 37, of Virginia Gardens, Florida

Brett Sinta, 36, of Hickory, North Carolina

Caleb Young, 38, of Olmsted Falls, Ohio

Daniel Walton, 34, of Saginaw, Texas

William T. Phillips, 39, of Highland, New York

 

Please follow and like us:

The Devastating Effects of the Ill-Conceived Proposed Title IX Changes

By Douglas Fierberg & Elizabeth Munoz

The Trump Administration’s ill-conceived proposed changes to Title IX will have devastating effects on the hard-fought progress made on decreasing sexual assaults on college campuses and encouraging survivors to report such misconduct.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, approximately 80% of rapes and sexual assaults are not reported.  That number is alarming, for obvious reasons.  Yet, the proposed regulations make both the reporting process and the investigation even more challenging, confrontational and threatening, further discouraging survivors from coming forward and decreasing the ability for justice for survivors.

First, rather than the current “preponderance of evidence” standard, which requires that the wrongdoing is proven as being more likely than not (over 50%), the regulations increase this standard to “clear and convincing,” which is a significantly higher burden of proof. 

There is no valid reason for increasing the required burden of proof for alleged sexual violence, when all other misconduct, including violent and deadly criminal acts, are judged in school disciplinary hearings by a preponderance of the evidence.  For example, a student defending himself in school disciplinary proceedings for allegedly killing, maiming, assaulting, stalking, etc., another student may be found responsible if his culpability is established by a preponderance of the evidence.  Were he charged with an act of sexual violence, though, the government and Secretary DeVos believe his responsibility should be established only by the higher standard of clear and convincing evidence.  Why the difference?  Historical and wrongful gender bias, pure and simple.  The fact is that men (the overwhelming majority of offenders) and women presently have numerous rights to defend themselves at school hearings, and appeal adverse findings to multiple levels of oversight. The idea that alleged offenders presently lack due process in defending themselves is pure fiction.

Second, the current disciplinary systems at schools permit extensive questioning of the survivor and accused to challenge their respective accounts and testimony, though under reasonably controlled circumstances. 

Most often, this involves presenting questions to the judicial panel to be posed to the other party for purposes of exposing inconsistencies or other shortcomings in their claims.  This keeps the proceedings civil and meaningful.  The proposed regulations would essentially set the dogs loose by allowing the representatives of the accused to directly cross-examine, attack and intimidate the survivor with questions that have not been subjected to any prior review by the judicial panel.  The foreseeable result is that survivors will face scathing, wholly irrelevant, abusive and inadmissible questions before the panel even has an opportunity to prevent the abusive questioning.  One simple example where this will certainly cause harm and havoc to survivors is when the accused will invariably seek to use a survivor’s other sexual relationships to prove his own innocence.  Virtually every state and court either prohibits this line of inquiry entirely under so-called Rape Shield statutes or severely limits and closely supervises this line of questioning because of its general irrelevance and abusiveness.  But, by allowing direct questioning by the accused and his representatives, the regulations will undoubtedly result in this type of abuse, which, like bruises, do not simply disappear after the beating stops.

Third, the proposed guidelines change the definition of sexual harassment to be an event, “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the school’s education program or activity.”

Yet, the question of what constitutes sexual abuse and harassment are so often inextricably connected to the specific, unique and subjective surrounding circumstances and persons involved.  It still matters that a young woman is regularly harassed at school by another student about her gender, body and physical appearance, even if she, for reasons particular to her, is more sensitive or vulnerable to such comments than other young women.  That the harassing comments regularly devastate her are not “objectively” offensive to others should not give the abuser a license to continue, and this is a long-settled principle of American law:  A wrongdoer is never deemed entitled to a healthy, strong victim by any actual or quasi-judicial forum in this country.   The wrongdoer is responsible even if his conduct might not have harmed others.

Finally, the proposed regulations lessen the responsibility of schools to protect students to misconduct that occurs on campus, exempting the wide-range of misconduct that takes place in off-campus fraternity houses, other school-related locations, parties and events, even though a substantial portion of sexual assaults occur in these circumstances,[1]  and such misconduct invariably carries onto campus because that’s where the assailant and survivor reside and attend classes. 

It’s on campus – in the dormitories, classrooms, cafeterias, libraries and at school events – that the survivor faces the presence, threat and terrifying harassment of the assailant and, often, his friends and supporters.  It is this threat, unchecked and unresolved, that causes so many survivors academic harm, exclusion, and other damages.  There are absolutely no legal or moral bases for permitting schools to protect a survivor’s educational rights in this circumstance.

Considerable institutional, societal, and structural barriers are already in place which discourages survivors of assault from reporting their assault.  Likewise, those and other structures provide due process, meaningful hearings, and appeals to persons accused of engaging in sexual violence and misconduct.  The proposed regulations do not fix real problems in the system.  Instead, if implemented, they are sure to further discourage survivors from reporting sexual assaults, harm them when they pursue valid claims, and pave the way for numerous assailants to evade responsibility for their misconduct.

[1] The principal insurer and risk-management company for universities conducted a study that found that 41% of assaults occur at off-campus parties.

 

To offer your input, please go to https://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID “ED-2018-OCR-0064” or “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance” to begin the process and click on the option to “Comment Now”. Comments are accepted as a text entry or uploaded document, either Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF (text-searchable preferred) and should include the Docket ID. Please note that all submitted comments are made publicly available online, so do not include anything you don’t want to be made public.

Please follow and like us:

Douglas Fierberg: “A central purpose of this lawsuit is to compel LSU, Phi Delta Theta and other universities to eliminate dangerous hazing traditions…”

Death of LSU pledge raises questions about fraternity and sorority hazing The Daily Tar Heel | October 22, 2018 | By Ryan Smoot

Title IX is typically known as a gender discrimination prevention tool, but one family is trying to use it for something else.

The parents of Maxwell Gruver, an LSU fraternity pledge who died from alleged hazing last year, have filed a lawsuit against the LSU Board of Supervisors, as the family seeks $25 million in damages for the university’s neglect of Title IX law.

This is the first time Title IX is being used as an argument against hazing.

The lawsuit, coinciding with LSU Police Department police reports, alleges Maxwell was forced to take 10 to 12 pulls of 190-proof liquor during a “Bible Study” hazing event, where pledges had to drink after each incorrect answer about the fraternity.

Phi Delta Theta brothers allegedly left Gruver unconscious on a fraternity couch at midnight, until pledges brought him to the emergency room the next morning. Gruver’s blood alcohol content was .495, six times over the state’s legal limit.

The Gruver family claims LSU dismissed an ongoing culture of fraternity hazing within the university as “boys being boys,” while also imposing harsh punishments against sororities, where hazing is typically considered an anomaly.

“LSU’s policy and practice meant that a sorority accused of hazing its pledges by making them sing songs and do sit-ups and putting whipped cream, syrup and eggs in their hair was given ‘Total Probation’ by LSU – the most severe sanction LSU can impose, short of rescinding its recognition of the sorority,” a press release from the Max Gruver Foundation said. “While Phi Delt’s chapter, which admitted to hazing in 2016, was only placed on interim suspension for a month.”

Ion Outterbridge, the director of UNC’s Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, said in an email that the University holds fraternities and sororities to equal standards for hazing violations.

“All fraternities and sororities are held to the Honor Code of the University, the same code of conduct all students are held to,” Outterbridge said in an email. “Fraternities and sororities must also comply with the guidelines set forth by the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, the bylaws of their national organization and the University Alcohol Policy.”

A sophomore UNC fraternity brother, who wished to keep himself and his fraternity anonymous, said hazing is central to the pledging process at his fraternity. He said speaking to anyone outside the fraternity about hazing results in expulsion from the University chapter, and brothers are normally given a script on what to tell those who ask.

He said hazing is now milder than the stories he has heard from seniors and graduates, but it still was significantly worse than what he had expected and what brothers told him before he accepted his bid.

He said pledges were hazed once a week in a “line-up,” until “hell week” — the last week before initiation — in which line-ups occurred every day.

“Looking back, it’s a memory you want to forget, so I’ve honestly tried to forget and suppress the details,” he said. “Mostly it’s eating and drinking really disgusting things, combined with physical exertion, until you throw up. On the milder side, we’d have cleaning shifts and just have to act subservient to brothers.”

He said he thinks the continuation of hazing at fraternities is primarily rooted in tradition and equity, and that he doubts brothers will ever take the initial step to end hazing completely.

“It’s a mixture of our history and just fairness,” he said. “Like if I went through all of this, why would I stop it here?”

The Gruver family hopes the lawsuit can prompt other universities to take a look at their hazing policies.

“A central purpose of this lawsuit is to compel LSU, Phi Delta Theta and other universities to eliminate dangerous hazing traditions, end the killing of young men and stop lying to students and families who have the right to know information that may save lives,” Douglas Fierberg, the family’s attorney, said.

Two fraternity members entered pleas in September, and a third is set to have a trial in July 2019.

Until then, Title IX’s impact on hazing is unclear.

https://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2018/10/hazing-title-ix-1022 

Please follow and like us: