4 Plead Guilty in Hazing Death of 18-Year-Old Baruch College Student

Clockwise from top left, Kenny Kwan, Charles Lai, Raymond Lam and Sheldon Wong. (Rich Schultz/Associated Press)

Four men initially charged with murder in the hazing death of a Baruch College freshman pleaded guilty to reduced charges on Monday. The four were involved in a fraternity initiation in which the authorities said the 18-year-old student who died, Chun Hsien Deng, fell unconscious and the other fraternity members delayed seeking medical aid.

The students had traveled in the winter of 2013 to the Poconos from New York City for a weekend retreat where potential members went through a hazing to join Pi Delta Psi, an Asian-American fraternity. Mr. Deng was one of the pledges, and the authorities said he was knocked out after he was blindfolded, forced to wear a backpack weighted with sand and pummeled by other fraternity members as he tried to cross a frozen yard.

Almost two years later, Monroe County prosecutors announced that 37 people had been charged in connection with his death, many facing counts such as assault and hindering apprehension. Five of them, as well as the national fraternity itself, were charged with third-degree murder, which does not involve premeditation or a specific intent to kill.

Four of the men who had been charged with murder — Kenny Kwan, 28; Charles Lai, 26; Raymond Lam, 23; and Sheldon Wong, 24 — appeared in court here on Monday, where they pleaded guilty to reduced charges of voluntary manslaughter and hindering apprehension after reaching an agreement with prosecutors.

Chun Hsien Deng, a freshman pledge, died the day after sustaining what doctors described as severe head trauma and bruises.

The men, who avoided talking to reporters as they left court, are scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 4.

“They were always willing to accept responsibility, and the legal battle was over what the level of responsibility was,” Todd Greenberg, the lawyer for Mr. Lam, said, adding, “I hope the judge is going to understand that nobody intended for this to happen and sentence accordingly.”

Prosecutors reduced the charges for Daniel Li, who had also been charged with murder; his case has not been resolved. Mr. Li cooperated with prosecutors. The national fraternity is still awaiting a trial on murder and other charges.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Rick Rojas