Late yesterday the judge in the trial of Max Haskin, Ben Mann and Edward “EJ” Williams, on hazing charges related to the death of George Desdunes released her verdict clearing these three men of those charges. Click here for articles from Matt Hayes in the Ithaca Journal, and the story from the Cornell Daily Sun.
As noted in the Ithaca Journal article, we do not yet know the verdict as it relates to identical charges against the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter. Based on the information from the trial, the chapter did not appear in court, and did not put up a defense. Since the chapter has been shut down, I am not sure that this verdict will mean anything.
The next step will be to follow the resolution of the civil cases filed by the family of George Desdunes. It appears that they have two active civil suits: a $10 million lawsuit was filed naming the chapter’s pledge educator, and three students who were pledges at the time (not the same three from the criminal trial); an earlier $25 million suit names Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity (the National organization), the local chapter, the SAE Foundation, two SAE related housing corporations, and twenty individual members and pledges of the chapter (including the three from the criminal case). Cornell University is not named in either lawsuit.
It is uncertain how the results of the criminal trial will impact the civil cases. But with this trial out of the way, I would expect the civil cases to be resolved fairly quickly, and never make it to a courtroom.