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Hazing News

Texas death update

Sept. 25, 2007, 2:11PM
3 UT frat brothers plead in hazing death of Houston teen

By PAIGE HEWITT
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

Three fraternity brothers of a Houston teen who died from alcohol poisoning during a hazing incident at the University of Texas in 2005 must serve two years deferred adjudication, perform 100 hours of community service and each pay a $1,000 fine, as agreed to in a plea bargain reached today.

The three members of the predominately Asian Lambda Phi Epsilon fraternity — Benny Chan, president of the chapter, Andrew Nguyen, pledge captain and Kamal Pulukuri, “Hell Master” — pleaded no contest to hazing charges.

They must also participate in making an educational video on the dangers of “power drinking” and execute an affidavit containing a full description of what happened the night 18-year-old Phanta “Jack” Phoummarath died, said Randall Sorrels, attorney for the family, which has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the national chapter of the California-based fraternity.

The Austin chapter, which was also charged and had already surrendered its local chapter until 2011, must pay a $2,000 fine, Sorrels said.

Phoummarath’s family members said the sentence was fair, but they are still shocked that his friends dragged him, incoherent, up a flight of stairs shortly before he died.

“It was inhumane,” said his sister Marion Phoummarath, 27.

Her younger brother was a freshman when found dead Dec. 10, 2005. Friends from his fraternity and a sorority had given him four to six bottles of alcohol before they dragged him to a garage apartment, where they scribbled vulgarities and other messages on his body and painted his lips, ears and toenails while he was passed out. Some of his friends played video games in the same room as Phoummarath lay incoherent, Sorrels said.

The medical examiner reported his blood-alcohol level was 0.41, more than five times the legal limit.

His parents, Laotian immigrants, said they never could have imagined they could lose son in such a way.

“We thought we were sending our son to the University of Texas to learn, not do die,” said his mother Soukha Phoummarath.

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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