22 face charges in NIU student's fraternity hazing death

Nearly two dozen members of a Northern Illinois University fraternity were charged with hazing crimes Monday after a student died following excessive drinking at a party last month.

On the night before his death, freshman David Bogenberger went from room to room in the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, answering a series of questions in exchange for vodka and other liquor over a two-hour period, authorities said.

It was a part of an annual ritual known as "parents' night," an alcohol-infused party in which senior members of the fraternity and associated sororities are assigned as mentors to new members. Bogenberger, a 19-year-old finance major from Palatine, had recently pledged the house in an effort to make friends at his father's alma mater.

"He wanted to be liked. He wanted to be accepted," said Peter R. Coladarci, the Bogenberger family attorney. "It's a classic case of a kid who just wants to fit in with the group."

Bogenberger's efforts to fit in proved fatal, as he was found dead in a fraternity house bed the next morning. Subsequent tests found his blood alcohol content was about five times the legal limit for driving of 0.08 percent at the time of his death, authorities said.

NIU regularly approves parents' night parties, but police say fraternity leaders intentionally kept the event a secret from campus officials so they could serve liquor without oversight. Registered gatherings typically include inspections to ensure that university rules are being followed.

The alleged deceit led to criminal charges against 22 members of the fraternity, which ceased operation shortly after Bogenberger's Nov. 2 death.

DeKalb County authorities have charged five fraternity leaders with felony hazing in connection with the incident, authorities said. Seventeen others face misdemeanor charges.

"They knowingly planned this event and did not seek to register it because of the kind of event they were going to provide, because of the amount of alcohol that was to be consumed," DeKalb Police Department Lt. Jason Leverton said.

Charged with felony hazing are the fraternity's president, Alexander M. Jandick, 21, of Naperville; its vice president, James P. Harvey, 21, of DeKalb; pledge adviser Omar Salameh, 21, of DeKalb; secretary Patrick W. Merrill, 19, of DeKalb; and event planner Steven A. Libert, 20, of Naperville, authorities said.

Felony hazing carries a possible prison sentence of one to three years, though probation is an option. The misdemeanor hazing charge carries a penalty of up to 364 days in jail, with probation as an option.

In a statement released through DeKalb authorities, Bogenberger's family it still was grappling with his death and a future without him. The family also acknowledged concern for the families of those charged Monday.

"We have no desire for revenge. Rather, we hope that some significant change will come from David's death," the statement read. "Alcohol poisoning claims far too many young, healthy lives. We must realize that young people can and do die in hazing rituals. Alcohol-involved hazing and initiation must end."

One of the fraternity officers called the Bogenberger family in Florida over the weekend to express his regret, Coladarci said. The student -- who Coladarci believes was among those charged -- gave his account of the evening and acknowledged errors in judgment, the attorney said.

The family believes the charges were necessary to prevent future hazing incidents, Coladarci said. He declined to discuss possible punishments, only saying the family is not seeking "an eye for an eye" and does not want to see any "harm" done to those charged.

"These kind of hazing incidents are commonplace on college campuses, and I think these kids don't understand that you can die from it," he said. "This is a national health epidemic, which must be addressed."

A spokesman for the Pi Kappa Alpha headquarters in Memphis, Tenn., did not respond to requests for comment.

NIU has placed temporary sanctions against the fraternity, meaning that it cannot operate as a student organization, NIU spokesman Paul Palian said. The fraternity faces disciplinary charges that could lead to permanent sanctions.

NIU also announced disciplinary charges Monday against 31 fraternity members. The charges stem from violations of the student code of conduct regarding hazing and alcohol consumption.

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