POCONO PINES, PA. (CBSNewYork) — Four Baruch College students and the president of their fraternity made their first court appearance Thursday in connection with the hazing death of another student.
As CBS2’s Christine Sloan reported, they are among 37 people facing charges. They are accused of participating in the hazing ritual at a rented Poconos house that led to the death of Baruch freshman Chun “Michael” Deng, 19.READ MORE: Gabby Petito's Family Speaks Publicly For 1st Time Since Her Body Was Found: 'We Can't Let Her Name Be Taken In Vain'
Students Thomas Liu, Aaron Chen, Alan Wong and Sam Liao are facing a slew of charges, including destroying hazing evidence. Pi Delta Psi President Andy Meng is accused of telling students to hide ritual items such as paddles to protect the fraternity. They were arraigned Thursday in a small Pennsylvania courtroom, where they were bombarded by cameras.
“We entered a plea of not guilty, and we look forward to resolving this case in court,” Meng’s attorney, Todd Greenberg, told reporters outside court.
Meng was accompanied by his mother and sister.
“Certainly, this is a tragedy, without saying,” Greenberg said. “Everybody understands that. Our deepest sympathy and the Meng family’s deepest sympathy to the family of Mr. Deng.”
Liao’s lawyer said his client had no comment for reporters. The other defendants also declined to speak outside court.
The incident allegedly happened at a rental house in the Poconos in December 2013.READ MORE: Caught On Video: Police Say Man Suspected Of Robbing 7 Unsuspecting Seniors In The Bronx
Police say Deng was blindfolded, forced to walk through a crowd wearing a backpack with 30 pounds of sand in it. They say he was speared, brutally attacked and knocked out, and that he died because there was up to a two-hour delay getting him medical attention.
“We also want to bring justice to the victim’s family, and we want to do it fairly and let the defendants have their day in court,” said Pocono Mountain Regional police Chief Christopher Wagner.
Five students, who were not in court Thursday, are charged with third-degree murder.
“The allegations are very serious,” Assistant District Attorney Andrew Kroeckel said. “We take them very seriously.”
The fraternity itself also is charged.
Police say 32 other defendants will be in court over the next several weeks, with those facing the most serious charges appearing last.
If convicted, the students arraigned Thursday could be sentenced to anything from probation to seven years in prison. They are due back in court Oct. 16.MORE NEWS: New York City Teachers, Staff Face New Vaccine Deadline, But Some Look To Push Legal Battle To Supreme Court
CBS2 reached out to the fraternity, but has not received a response.