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Family accepts apology of USU student: Salt Lake City Tribune

Woman remorseful over USUstudent’s alcohol poisoning death
Logan » She had bought vodka, much of which a fraternity pledge consumed before dying.

By Arrin Newton Brunson

Special To The Tribune

Salt Lake Tribune
Updated:07/14/2009 06:11:58 AM MDT

Logan » A 22-year-old Logan woman said an eight-day jail term isn’t nearly as intimidating as the anguish she faces since buying the bottle of vodka last fall that was involved in a Utah State University student’s death.

“I’m sorry. I’m so ashamed of what I did,” said Erin Anthony during Monday’s sentencing hearing in Logan’s 1st District Court.

Police reports say Anthony, a USU American studies major, didn’t know the vodka would be used during a joint Chi Omega sorority and Sigma Nu fraternity pledging event last November.

Cache County prosecutors allege the event was hazing, but have yet to secure any hazing convictions among the 12 students charged under the statute, which makes it a crime to induce another to engage in humiliating and dangerous behavior as a condition for admission into an organization.

Freshman fraternity pledge Michael Starks of Salt Lake City died of alcohol poisoning in the early morning hours of Nov. 21, a few hours after a “capture” ritual in which he drank much of Anthony’s fifth of vodka in the company of eight Chi Omega women.

Sigma Nu members chose Starks to be captured by the sorority women as a reward for being the fraternity’s favorite pledge.

“I know you think about him every day. I didn’t know him, but I think about him every day, too,” Anthony told George Starks III, the victim’s oldest brother.

Anthony told 1st District Judge Thomas L. Willmore she wouldn’t make excuses for her behavior. Anthony pleaded guilty June 1 to a Class B misdemeanor charge of unlawful sale/supply of alcohol to a minor.

“I can’t give you a reason for doing what I did, because any reason is just going to be an excuse. I broke a law. It wasn’t a mistake or an accident,” Anthony said.

Starks said his family is not angry at Anthony.

“I have and my family has been waiting for some type of apology from one of these individuals … Myself nor my family holds any malice or bad will toward [Anthony] and we hope that as she moves forward, it impacts her life positively,” Starks said.

Willmore urged state prosecutors to recommend harsher sentences for alcohol distribution violations.

“I’ve been on the bench now for 10½ years and I’ve seen hundreds if not thousands of unlawful possession of alcohol cases,” Willmore said. “These underage people are getting alcohol from somewhere and they’re not buying it themselves.”

Willmore described Anthony’s remorseful attitude as “very different from the others right from the beginning,” before sentencing her to one year in jail, with all but eight days suspended.

Anthony must also pay a $1,000 fine and complete 200 hours of community service, where she will address high school and college students about the dangers of underage drinking.

Anthony will spend the next four weekends in jail starting Friday. She’ll serve her sentence on the weekends so as not interfere with her employment.

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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