Four Fraternity Members Plead Guilty in 'Absolutely Preventable' Hazing Death of Baruch College Freshman
The murder trial against national fraternity Pi Delta Psi is scheduled to begin in November
Four fraternity members charged with murder in the 2013 hazing death of a Baruch College freshman Michael Deng pleaded guilty to reduced charges in a Pennsylvania courtroom as part of a deal with prosecutors, PEOPLE confirms.
In December, officials say the four men — Kenny Kwan, 28, Charles Lai, 26, Raymond Lam, 23, and Sheldon Wong, 24 — will be sentenced pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter and hindering apprehension.
Lawyers for the four defendants could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Deng, 18, and the only child of Chinese immigrants, died on a fraternity trip to the Poconos in Pennsylvania during the winter of 2013.
He became unconscious during a brutal initiation ritual, according to investigators. Police allege that Deng and other pledges were blindfolded and forced to carry bags filled with sand while fraternity brothers tackled them repeatedly.
From left: Sheldon Wong, Kenny KwanCourt records say Deng was “subjected to repeated blunt force trauma which was applied to three different organ systems of the body to include the head, torso and thighs.” Investigators say during one tackle, Deng slammed his head against the frozen ground and blacked out.
Rather than rush Deng to the hospital, the fraternity members allegedly contacted the fraternity’s national president, Andy Meng, who allegedly advised them to hide all Pi Delta Psi-related paraphernalia before calling authorities, according to court records.
Meng is one of the 37 who were charged for their alleged roles in the fatal incident.
Two hours would pass before Michael saw a doctor, police allege. By that time, he had already suffered major brain trauma. That delay, according to prosecutors, “significantly contributed” to his death.
Ongoing Legal Cases
The guilty pleas mean that five of the 37 criminal cases prosecutors had filed back in 2015 have been resolved, court officials tell PEOPLE. The cases against 32 other fraternity members, as well as one against Pi Delta Psi, an Asian-American fraternity, remain outstanding, according to a statement from prosecutors.
In January, Ka-Wing Yuen, 25, was sentenced to five years probation after pleading guilty earlier that month to conspiracy to hinder prosecution by destroying evidence and conspiracy to haze. Court records confirm the charges against fraternity president Daniel Li, 25, have been reduced, but his case remains unresolved.
The murder trial against the national fraternity is scheduled to begin in November. (Though it is a criminal trial, the fraternity could be forced to pay a fine if convicted.) In court filings, lawyers for Pi Delta Psi has argued the hazing was not sanctioned and that the membership of the Baruch College chapter flouted the organization’s rules.
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Two years ago, Deng’s relatives filed civil lawsuits against the college, the fraternity, and those charged with his death. According to records, only one of the suits has been settled; Wong agreed in November to pay the family $300,000.
PEOPLE received a statement from the Deng family by their attorney, Douglas Fierberg.
“Michael was a devoted, bright and loving son, and nothing can undo or lessen the crushing heartbreak of losing our only child to fraternity hazing,” the statement reads. “Michael’s death was absolutely preventable, and our family will, now and forever, do everything in our power to hold these men and their fraternity responsible.”