HOUSTON (FOX 26) - For the first time ever, a fraternity is being charged with hazing in Harris County, but according to the District Attorney’s office, if hazing happens again, it will not be the last time an organization is slapped with criminal charges. The unprecedented decision to indict Pi Kappa Alpha comes after investigators say University of Houston students ended up harmed while pledging the fraternity.
Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, or the Pikes as it frequently called, may have been indicted on charges of hazing as a result of the actions of the University of Houston chapter but the Harris County District Attorney’s Office hopes its message will reach far beyond that campus.
"We want this to serve as notice to all universities, fraternities, students, their parents, that hazing is a crime and will be prosecuted in Harris County," says Jim Leitner, chief of the HCDAO Intake Bureau. "We will have zero tolerance for that,"
The indictment follows a six-month investigation by the UH Police Department and HCDAO investigators. Hazing is a Class B misdemeanor. No individuals have been charged and the fraternity faces a fine of no more than $10,000.
Pi Kappa Alpha, which is based in Tennessee, was indicted after Leitner says several University of Houston students were “abused, forced to steal, deprived of food, water and sleep” for three days in 2016 and he adds that the pledges were made to wallow in vomit, tobacco spit and feces.
One young man was hospitalized when his spleen was lacerated after he was told to carry a glow stick and run through a field at night. "...he’s tackled in the dark by people with dark clothes on," explains Leitner. "That is how the ruptured spleen actually occurred,"
The Pikes has been suspended from the University of Houston until the year 2023.
"The university clearly does not tolerate hazing in any form or fashion," says UH vice president of student affairs Richard Walker. "We have policies to make sure our students are well protected. The safety of our students is most important to us."
"We don’t want to do away with fraternities," adds Leitner. "We just want to do away with hazing."
"Brotherhood and collegiate good times should be safe and hazing is not," says Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg. "It is also illegal and that should be recognized by the dozens of fraternities and sororities on college campuses all over the Houston area."