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Media cameras allowed in courtroom for NIU hazing death cases

Published: Thursday, March 28, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

SYCAMORE – Media cameras will be allowed in the DeKalb County courtroom for the felony cases related to the alleged hazing death of a Northern Illinois University freshman.

Associate Judge John McAdams denied defense attorneys’ request Wednesday to bar extended media coverage for the legal proceedings involving five Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity members facing felony hazing charges stemming from a November “parents night” party.

Fraternity pledge David Bogenberger was found dead in the fraternity house the morning after the unsanctioned Nov. 1 party. Toxicology reports showed his blood-alcohol level was 0.351 percent, which is more than four times the legal driving limit of 0.08 percent.

The cases are among the first in DeKalb County eligible for an Illinois Supreme Court program allowing media camera in the courtroom. Chief Judge Tim McCann signed an order creating media cameras rules for Kendall and DeKalb counties Feb. 1. The trial of William “Billy” Curl, who is charged with murder in the death of NIU freshman Antinette “Toni” Keller in October 2010, is expected to be the first local trial with media cameras inside the courtroom.

In the hazing cases discussed Tuesday, J. Brick Van Der Snick, attorney for fraternity vice president James Harvey, said extended media coverage leading up to a potential trial would make it nearly impossible to select an impartial jury.

“The goal here is to protect the jury pool,” Van Der Snick said. “This is a small county and a high-profile case.”

McAdams said he sympathized with Van Der Snick’s concerns about jury selection and would impose strict guidelines on how many cameras would be allowed and what could be recorded.

But the public’s access to the judicial system and maintaining trust in the process warranted cameras in the courtroom, McAdams said.

“We don’t want 52 cameras in the courtroom,” he said. “But ... I think it’s important for maintaining public trust in the judicial system.”

Seventeen other students allegedly present at the party face misdemeanors along with the five fraternity members facing felonies. Bogenberger’s family has also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Pi Kappa Alpha.

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