Fraternities face criminal charges in death

9:30 PM, Jul 15, 2010   |    comments
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The fraternity was charged with a misdemeanor in the death of 18-year-old Penn State University student Joseph Dado.

The freshman died after attending parties at two fraternities on campus. His blood alcohol was more than twice the legal limit for a 21 year old to drive.

The criminal prosecution of a fraternity in an alcohol related death is precedent setting.

"It hasn't been uncommon for parents of a student who was killed to sue a fraternity, a sorority or a university. What hasn't happened in the past is for the fraternity or sorority itself to be hauled into court and face criminal charges," 9NEWS Legal Analyst Scott Robinson said.

The trial for Phi Gamma Delta, the second fraternity charged in connection with Dado's death, is scheduled to begin in early August.

The law being used to charge the fraternities in this case is typically used to prosecute individuals who provide alcohol. According to Robinson, using the law to target the fraternity is a way of sending a message.

"It's clear that the prosecutors, at least in Pennsylvania are trying to communicate to the fraternities, no more drunken parties, no alcohol to minors," Robinson said.

He says that while the case is being heard in Pennsylvania, it will be watched by prosecutors and legislators across the country.

"If in fact the fraternity is found guilty, I anticipate there will be efforts in other states to make criminal codes apply to fraternities, if they do not already apply," Robinson said.

A ruling by Judge Kistler in this case is expected within a month.

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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