OROVILLE, Calif. – A judge raised the possibility that four fraternity members could be charged with torture in the death of a 21-year-old pledge, comparing the alleged hazing death to the torture of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers.
Butte County Superior Court Judge Robert Glusman said Friday that a summary of facts in the legal motions filed by attorneys appeared to support that charge, which would carry a potential life sentence.
“U.S. soldiers were charged with torturing Iraqi prisoners for doing far less than what happened in that basement,” Glusman said.
The four members of the now-defunct Chi Tau house at Chico State University are currently charged with involuntary manslaughter and hazing, which carry a maximum of four years in prison if convicted. They are accused of forcing Matthew Carrington, 21, to drink large amounts of water while performing calisthenics in a frigid basement as part of initiation rite on Feb. 2. Carrington collapsed and died of heart failure due to water intoxication.
The judge raised the possible torture charge after the defendants’ attorneys argued Friday that hazing charges should be dismissed because the rogue fraternity was not an official student organization – and that two of the defendants were not even students at the time.