Four members of a fraternity initially charged with the murder of a Baruch College freshman have pleaded guilty to reduced charges on Monday (15 May).
The men – members of Pi Delta Psi, an Asian-American fraternity – were involved in the initiation ritual of Chen Deng, who died of head injuries during a group trip to the Poconos in 2013.
Sheldon Wong, 24, Charles Lai, 26, Kenny Kwan, 28, and Raymond Lam, 23, entered guilty pleas to charges of being accomplices to voluntary manslaughter at Monroe County Court of Common Pleas in Stroudsburg on Monday (15 May).
Deng, 19, was killed after he was forced to take part in "the glass ceiling" ritual where he was blindfolded, made to wear a backpack weighted with sand and pummelled by fraternity members as he tried to make his way across a snow-covered field.
The ritual, part of a wider "hazing" process adopted by most American fraternities and sororities, is a way for prospective members to prove their worth before being accepted. The "glass ceiling" ritual was said to represent the plight of Asian-Americans.
After Deng was knocked unconscious, prosecutors accused fraternity brothers of waiting several hours before calling emergency services in order to concoct a cover-up story.
He died the next day after three members of the fraternity decided to drive him to hospital an hour after the incident. Another 33 members of the fraternity were arrested in the case and the fraternity itself is expected to go on trial in November, but Monday's hearing was seen as a big step forward in the case.
"We still have a long way to go," said Kimberly Metzger, an assistant district attorney, reported the New York Times. "It's a good resolution for now."
Baruch College, in Manhattan, New York, has since banned the Pi Delta Psi fraternity from its campus.