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22 NIU students charged in Pike pledge's death

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012 10:32 p.m. CDT
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(Kyle Bursaw – kbursaw@shawmedia.com)
Arrest warrants were issued Monday for 22 members of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at NIU on Monday in connection with the death of pledge David Bogenberger in November.

DeKALB – Twenty-two members of the fraternity where a 19-year-old freshman died last month were charged Monday with hazing.

David Bogenberger was found dead at the fraternity house Nov. 2. Authorities said Monday that a toxicology report showed Bogenberger had a blood-alcohol content of 0.351 percent when he died.

The Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, 1020 W. Hillcrest Drive, along with 31 student members, also are facing academic charges that could affect the fraternity’s permanent status as a registered student organization, Northern Illinois University officials said Monday in a news release. The students face academic sanctions, with penalties possibly rising to expulsion from the university.

Five of the fraternity members face felony hazing charges, which carry a maximum penalty of three years in prison. The other 17 members face misdemeanor charges.

The criminal and academic charges stem from an unsanctioned “parents night” party that the fraternity, known as the Pikes, allegedly hosted Nov. 1 for freshman Bogenberger and 18 other fraternity pledges. The event was not registered with the national fraternity organization or with NIU officials.

Bogenberger’s family called on university and fraternity leaders to stop alcohol-based hazing and initiation rituals.

“No other family should have to endure what we are going through,” the family said in a prepared statement. “Yet, we are losing these talented, beautiful and hopeful young people because of illegal drinking unrestrained by maturity and exacerbated by social pressure.”

On Nov. 1, Bogenberger and the other pledges drank vodka and other liquor from plastic cups for about two hours while playing a game in which they were asked a series of questions after being assigned “moms” and “dads,” according to a joint news release from DeKalb police and the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s Office.

The moms were fraternity members’ girlfriends or members of various sororities, while the dads were upperclassmen in the fraternity.

Bogenberger, a 2012 Palatine High School graduate, was found dead at the fraternity house the next morning. Several other pledges told authorities that they got sick or passed out because of heavy drinking, police said.

DeKalb County Coroner Dennis Miller ruled Bogenberger’s death accidental. Miller said the cause was “cardiac arrhythmia, with alcohol intoxication as a significant condition contributing to death.”

A 160-pound man who consumes 14 drinks in two hours would have a peak blood-alcohol content of 0.34 percent, said Aaron White, a neuroscientist with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in Bethesda, Md.

If the same man had 15 drinks in two hours, he would have a peak blood-alcohol content of 0.37 percent.

Drinking that much that quickly can affect the brain’s ability to control basic body functions, such as gag reflexes and heartbeats, White said.

“You just sort of sledgehammer the brain circuits that are responsible for memory,” White said.

The hazing charges indicate the fraternity members allegedly provided underage pledges with alcohol and created a situation in which they “felt compelled to consume alcohol as part of membership initiation and the Greek parenting process,” officials said in the release.

Aside from those charged, 20 to 25 other people, including the women involved with “parents night,” were at the fraternity that night, DeKalb Detective Lt. Jason Leverton said. Those people were not an active part of providing the alcohol or compelling the drinking, he said.

The Greek dads were the ones encouraging the drinking, Leverton said.

Leverton also said the fraternity and those associated with the events that night cooperated with the investigation for the most part.

The “parents night” party was not registered with NIU officials, according to an NIU news release. University policy requires all Greek social events be registered at least five days in advance with the university’s Office of Student Involvement and Leadership Development.

The university also can charge students with academic sanctions separate of criminal ones. NIU spokesman Paul Palian said if the students are found guilty via the university’s judicial process, they could face sanctions up to and including suspension or expulsion.

Palian said the 31 students were notified of the academic charges Dec. 7. At individual hearings, they will have the opportunity to present their side of the story.

“They have a right to the hearing,” Palian said. “This is the first step.”

Although academic charges are separate from the criminal charges, they do not operate in a vacuum. Palian said new evidence or developments in the criminal changes could change the academic charges.

“We can amend or change as new evidence comes from those cases,” Palian said.

Before a fraternity or sorority can host an event with alcohol, at least 51 percent of the membership must participate in training on the university’s “social policy, party monitoring tips, how to register a social event, how to manage risk and general alcohol education information,” the news release said.

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