Tuesday 19 September 2017

Mother sues fraternity for $25m after son dies in drink ritual

Jon Swaine in New York

ONE of America's university fraternities is being sued for $25m (€17.3m) after a student was allegedly blindfolded, bound and made to drink so much during a ritual that he died.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE), whose motto is The True Gentlemen, has received a lawsuit from the mother of George Desdunes (19), who was found dead at Cornell University earlier this year.

The 155-year-old "frat", whose alumni range from William McKinley, the 25th US president, to 'Monty Python's' Terry Gilliam, has now been banned from the Ivy League in upstate New York for five years.

Younger members of the group allegedly kidnapped Mr Desdunes during a "hazing" in February, before tying him up and questioning him about the fraternity's history.

Mr Desdunes, an aspiring doctor, is said to have been ordered to do exercises or down a shot of vodka if he got an answer wrong. Eventually he passed out from the alcohol.

Dumped

But rather than being taken to hospital, the second-year student was allegedly dumped on a sofa in the frat house library.

He was found by a housekeeper, who called an ambulance. He was declared dead at a nearby hospital, where it was discovered his blood-alcohol level was five times the legal driving limit.

A spokesman for the fraternity said it had strict rules against hazing and a "zero-tolerance policy" for those who do not comply.

But the lawsuit alleges: "The kidnapping and ensuing events were part of a long-standing fraternity ritual that was authorised and encouraged by SAE chapter officers and members."

The lawsuit also cites three other alcohol-related deaths of SAE members or would-be members in recent years.

In a statement, lawyers for Marie Lourdes Andre, Mr Desdunes's mother, described him as "a fine young man".

"George's death has incited Marie to join the fight against fraternities, their dangerous rituals, and their refusal to stop activities that have killed at least one student every year for the past 40 years," it said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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