Blog : Texas

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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Tattered Baylor Hit with $2M Fine from Big 12 for Sexual Assault Scandal

Colleges and universities are having to answer publicly for how their administrations handle reports of sexual misconduct and other controversies on campus.

The Big 12 athletic conference announced Tuesday that it will fine Baylor University $2 million for “reputational damage to the conference and its members” resulting from a high-profile sexual assault scandal that involved the university’s football team.

In the eyes of it conference, Baylor is now in full compliance with the league….

Read More: Big 12 Confirms Baylor Implemented All Recommendations

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TCU Student Arrested on Hazing Charges Discovered Dead

By Kathleen Joyce | Fox News

A Texas Christian University (TCU) student who was arrested in September on hazing charges was discovered dead on a campus sidewalk Thursday.

Andrew Walker, 19, of Westford, Mass., died of an apparent suicide caused by “blunt force trauma from a fall,” the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office stated, according to Dallas Morning News. Police said Walker jumped from the “fourth floor of the apartment complex parking garage,” WFAA reported.

Following the incident, the chapter was suspended from the school’s campus by the university and Kappa Sigma’s national office, FOX 4 reported.

Walker was slated to appear in court on Dec. 3 for the hazing charge and a DWI arrest, Dallas Morning News reported. The Star-Telegram reported that Barksdale was expelled from the school.

The school released a statement saying they were “saddened” by Walker’s death.

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Client v. Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity et al.

We were lead counsel for a young man who sustained severe injuries when he was beaten and compelled to drink gallons of water in a highly-publicized incident of hazing by a fraternity at Southern Methodist University.  The national fraternity and members disclaimed any responsibility for the pledge’s serious injuries, claiming that he voluntarily participated in the hazing and that the fraternity owed him no legal duty to protect him from hazing by student members of the local chapter.  Extensive discovery was undertaken and, through the production of documents by and oral depositions of the national fraternity officials, we established numerous prior risk management violations and inadequate supervision by the national fraternity.  Despite having allegedly banned violent hazing, the national fraternity knew that its members were conducting “underground hazing” because fraternity members looked down upon and did not want to admit “paper members,”  e.g. those who merely filled out the paperwork to gain admission as opposed to submitting to regular beatings and hazing.   The evidence also established inadequate oversight of the national of its membership program.  The national fraternity eventually agreed to pay our client a substantial financial settlement.

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Estates of Numerous Deceased College Students v. Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, et al.

Represented the families of five young students who were killed on the side of the road near a fraternity party sponsored by the Pi Eta Chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon at Texas A&M University.  The fraternity is located next to a 5 lane, unlit 65 mph highway, and it closed the gates to its parking lot and reserved those safe spaces as a “perk” for its own members.  Others were directed to park on the highway shoulder, despite the fact that the police had warned the fraternity that this was unsafe and that it had to do something about this practice.  Discovery demonstrated that the fraternity engaged in numerous violations of its own risk-management rules, and that it considered “safe and adequate” parking at this location a “basic safety consideration.”  Yet, it had a long-standing practice of directing its invited guests to park on the highway shoulder – in harm’s way.  The evening immediately prior to this horrific tragedy, the fraternity chapter president was warned by the police to stop directing invited guests to the highway shoulder because, in his words, somebody might get killed out there.  The fraternity refused to heed this advice and sponsored an even larger party the next night, closed its parking gates, and directed guests to the dangerous shoulder.  Six wonderful people died.  Despite this and other compelling evidence, the trial court dismissed the action (without issuing a written opinion) and the families’ appeals all the way to the Texas Supreme Court were denied, reflecting how justice can still be elusive even in the most compelling of circumstances.  Legal briefs identifying the facts and circumstances underlying this tragedy (and telling the whole story) are available upon request.  One substantial financial settlement was obtained on behalf of one family under its uninsured motorist policy.  To this date, our firm is committed to these families and the pursuit of the justice they were wrongly denied.  In that regard, we have pursued TKE for its wrongdoing in other jurisdictions and held it accountable for the harm (including wrongful death) caused by its negligence.

The following are publicly available documents, Pleading 1 and Pleading 2, from this case.  Media coverage of the Tau Kappa Epsilon incident can be reviewed here.

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