Blog : New York

HONORING THE LIFE OF GEORGE DESDUNES

 

On September 26, 2018, Cornell University permanently honored the life of George Desdunes by unveiling a plaque prominently placed at entrance of the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life.  This remembrance of George serves as a constant reminder to everyone involved in Greek affairs of the tragic death of George on February 25, 2011, as a result of hazing ritual by pledges and members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

Following her son’s death, Marie André created groundbreaking law in New York that clearly establishes the principle that national fraternities can be held civilly liable for the wrongdoing of their members.  SAE sought to dismiss the lawsuit against it and was unsuccessful.  The opinion by the Supreme Court of New York will certainly help other families hold national fraternities responsible for the death and injury caused by their failure to prevent their chapters and members from engaging in hazing, sexual violence, binge drinking, and other misconduct.

Marie was also the force behind fundamental changes in fraternity management by Cornell University.  In doing so, Cornell took the unprecedented steps to publish the history of hazing violations by fraternities and other campus groups, accurately warning parents and students in detail of the risks associated with fraternities.  (See hazing.cornell.edu)  This reporting by Cornell is one of the highest standards of transparency in the country.  It is also worth noting that Cornell’s former Senior Associate Dean of Students, Travis Apgar, whose office was responsible for fraternities at the time of George’s death and during a span of years when SAE was regularly hazing students and operating unsafely without consequence, is no longer employed by Cornell.

By holding accountable those responsible, both the individuals and the national fraternity, Marie obtained justice for the tragic and senseless death of her son, George.  In changing the way Cornell University handles claims of hazing, and by the placement of a plaque in George’s honor and remembrance, Marie has effectively prevented others from enduring the same hardships she will forever suffer. 

Our firm was honored to support her efforts.

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Defendant Involved in Fatal Hazing of Michael Deng Pleads Guilty

The Pi Delta Psi brothers present the night our client lost his life in a violent fraternity hazing ritual face a range of criminal charges including assault, hindering apprehension, and hazing.

fatal hazing, hazing ritual, hazing death, michael deng, the fierberg national law group, pi delta psi fraternity
Deng was killed during a trip with the Baruch College chapter of the Pi Delta Psi fraternity.

School Violence Law represents the family of Michael Deng in its pursuit of civil justice in his behalf.

As reported previously, 37 members of an Asian-American cultural fraternity – Pi Delta Psi at Baruch College in Manhattan – were arrested December 2013 after Michael Deng died of head injuries sustained during a brutal hazing ritual known as “the glass ceiling.”

Ka-Wing Yuen is the first of the Pi Delta Psi defendants to stand trial. He plead guilty to charges of conspiracy to hinder apprehension by evidence tampering, and conspiracy to commit hazing Tuesday in Monroe County Court of Common Pleas in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. 

Yuen will be sentenced January 23 and could received several months in prison.

Five of the remaining 36 defendants face third-degree murder charges.

Click here and here to review our previous coverage on the events that transpired that fatal night.  
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Estate of Deceased College Student v. Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Numerous Defendants.

Retained by the mother of a Cornell sophomore who died as a result of hazing at the hands of the SAE pledges.   The lawsuit alleges that early in the morning of February 25, 2011, George, of Brooklyn, New York, was kidnapped by fraternity pledges of SAE as part of a long-standing fraternity ritual.  The pledges bound George at his wrists and ankles with zip ties and duct tape.  The pledges quizzed George about SAE and compelled him to consume alcohol until he lost consciousness and passed out numerous times. He required prompt, emergency medical treatment.  Instead, SAE pledges and members took him to the fraternity house, still bound at the wrists and ankles, and dumped him on a couch where he was left to die.  George was found later that morning by Cornell personnel, with zip ties still around his wrists and ankles.  One SAE pledge tried to interfere with the crime scene by having the zip ties removed before police arrived.  George’s blood alcohol level was .409%, and his death was a result of hazing.  See full press release.

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Estate of Deceased College Student v. Numerous Defendants.

Estate of Deceased College Student v. Numerous Defendants.  Retained by the family of a student who died following an initiation hazing ritual by the PIGS at State University of New York, Geneseo. The pledges were directed over the course of a day to participate in multiple drinking games and to later attend a PIGS party where they were directed to drink again.  Having advance knowledge that the police had been called to the party, the fraternity cleared the house and carried the intoxicated college student to an upstairs bedroom where he was left unattended. The college student died of alcohol poisoning.  The college death case is still in litigation, but articles about this case follow: News Article 1News Article 2News Article 3News Article 4.

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Suit Filed in Cornell Case, New York

Marie Lourdes André, the mother of deceased Cornell University student George Desdunes, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Kings County, New York, against Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity (“SAE”), its officers and members (case no. 500460/2011).  The suit seeks to hold SAE, its chapter officers and members responsible for his death by hazing as that term is defined generally, under the laws of the State of New York, and the Guidebook of Rights, Responsibilities, Requirements and Resources (the “Guidebook”) of Cornell University.  For the full press release, click here.

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