While the three former SAE pledges were acquitted of hazing charges in the case connected to the death of George Desdunes, the local chapter was found guilty of hazing as part of the same trial. “Judge Judith Rossiter found the local chapter guilty of first-degree hazing and unlawful dealing with a child, and of second-degree criminal nuisance, in her decision issued Tuesday afternoon.” Here is today’s article by Matt Hayes of the Ithaca Journal. While the three men charged put up a vigorous defense, the chapter was not represented in court and did not defend itself.
The chapter is subject to a potential fine of up to $12,000. However, the chapter no longer exists as an entity. The national organization of Sigma Alpha Epsilon maintains that they are completely separate from the local chapter, and have revoked the charter from that group. (The civil case might have something different to say about that.)
An interesting twist to the verdict is that it appears that the judge found the chapter guilty based on activities other than those that happened on the night George Desdunes died. From the newspaper article, “In her decision, Rossiter wrote that ritual line-ups at the fraternity constituted hazing under New York law. During the weekly line-ups fraternity members subjected assembled pledges to taunts, punishments and directives.”
The decision also states that, “sentencing has been adjourned until all parties can be heard.” I doubt that anyone will show up on behalf of the local chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
At some point in the future, it is likely that the national organization of SAE will seek to re-establish their New York Alpha chapter at Cornell. 120+ years of history at an Ivy League campus is not easily abandoned. I wonder how this decision may impact their ability to return.