Hazing News

Hazing death update: felony charges levied

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Posted on Thu, Aug. 20, 2009
Students accused in Cal Poly hazing death appear in court
Nick Wilson
Two Cal Poly students accused in the hazing death of a freshman last year were back in court today for a preliminary hearing.

Haithem Ibrahim and Zacary Ellis are charged for their alleged roles in the alcohol-related death of 18-year-old freshman Carson Starkey in December 2008.

They have pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutor Craig Van Rooyen argued to open the hearing that Ibrahim and Ellis had key roles in providing Starkey with the beer and hard liquor that he drank quickly as part of a traditional drinking event that led to his death.

Fellow fraternity brother Christopher Perkins is on the stand today, testifying against Ibrahim and Ellis in exchange for his immunity from prosecution.

Perkins said he poured out some of his alcohol on a previous fraternity drinking night when he was a pledge because he didn’t want his “big brother” to see any alcohol remaining — which was expected of pledges at this annual event.

Perkins also said that pledges in the fraternity typically weren’t allowed to make eye contact with the pledge educator or communicate with him directly as part of the fraternity’s tradition. Ellis is the alleged pledge educator in December 2008 and Ibrahim was Starkey’s alleged designated big brother who assigned him alcohol to drink.

Perkins’ testimony resumes this afternoon in Judge Michael Duffy’s courtroom.

Ibrahim and Ellis are being charged with the felony violation of hazing causing death and a misdemeanor of furnishing alcohol to a minor causing death.

By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. In April of 2024, the Alaska Press Club awarded him first place in the Best Columnist division and Best Humorist, second place.

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 current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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