‘Why Did They Do This To Him?’ Mother Mourns NYC College Student Who Died From Hazing Ritual
Chun Hsien “Michael” Deng suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was blindfolded and tackled.
Several men were sentenced to prison nearly four years after a student pledging a fraternity was shoved, tackled, and hit during a pre-dawn hazing ritual that ultimately cost him his life.
On Dec. 8, 2013, Chun Hsien “Michael” Deng, an 18-year-old freshman at Baruch College in New York City, was at a Pi Delta Psi fraternity retreat at a rented house in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains when he went through the hazing ritual known as “glass ceiling,” NBC News reported.
Deng, wearing a blindfold and a 30-pound weighted backpack, walked a line of fraternity brothers as they attempted to knock him down, according to the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office.
Deng fell multiple times during the ritual, and a forensic pathologist noted the student suffered “significant blunt force trauma” to his head, back, thigh, and other parts of his body, court documents state.
Following the incident, brothers at the Asian-American fraternity were accused of waiting to transport him to Wilkes-Barre Hospital, where he died the following day as the result of a delay in treatment and “complications of traumatic brain injury,” an autopsy later determined.
Deng’s death was ruled a homicide.
Monroe County prosecutors charged Pi Delta Psi as an organization and fraternity brothers Kenny Kwan, Charles Lai, Raymond Lam, and Sheldon Wong with multiple criminal counts that included involuntary manslaughter and third-degree murder.
In 2017, the four defendants pleaded guilty to felony charges of voluntary manslaughter and hindering apprehension, according to NBC News.
Eight months later, in January 2018, a judge sentenced Kwan to 12 to 24 months behind bars, Lam and Wong to 10 to 24 months, and Lai to time served, according to NBC News.
The men were also placed on seven years probation once they served their sentences.
A fifth defendant in the case, Ka-Wing Yuen previously pleaded guilty to charges related to the deadly hazing and a judge gave him five years probation and ordered him to perform 100 hours of community service and pay a $1,000 fine.
Mary Liu Deng wrote in a victim impact statement that her son was a “kind, generous, loving person” and that his premature death left her feeling “like there’s a cat clawing and scratching at my heart.”
“Since he left,” she wrote, “the lines between real life and a dream are blurred. Now Michael is gone and I cannot understand why.”
She asked: “Why would other young men like Michael not value his life like he did theirs? Why would they tackle him and not take care of him? Why did they do this to him?”
After sentencing, attorneys for several of the defendants said they were satisfied with the sentences the judge handed down.
“The judge was fair,” Robert Saurman, Kwan's attorney, told NBC News. “She applied justice to it, weighed the balance, and came out with a very just decision, which punishes the defendants but also recognizes that they didn't act with any malice, that they made mistakes, horrible mistakes, but no one intended any harm.”
In November 2018, Pi Delta Psi Inc. was found guilty of several charges, including involuntary manslaughter and assault but acquitted of third-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter.
The judge later ordered the fraternity to pay a $112,500 fine and banned the organization from operating chapters or doing business in Pennsylvania for 10 years, CNN reported.
For more on this case, stream The Real Story with Maria Elena Salinas "Deadly Brotherhood" on discovery+.