Hazing News

The Donnie Wade case at Prairie View is settled it seems…except for law enforcement decision

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A final judgment signed by State District Judge Bob Wortham in Beaumont on Sept. 1 says the case has been resolved and that Donnie and Katrina Wade, the student’s parents, should take nothing from Washington, D.C.-based Phi Beta Sigma. Such language is often used when the parties in a lawsuit reach an out-of-court settlement.

Marco McMillian, the fraternity’s executive director, said through a spokeswoman Wednesday that he would have no comment. Attorneys involved in the case did not respond to phone messages from The Associated Press.

Donnie Wade II collapsed and died after he and other pledges participated in a punishing series of pre-dawn physical activities on a high school track last Oct. 20. An autopsy later determined that the 20-year-old student from Dallas suffered from several medical conditions that were aggravated by the exercises.

In their lawsuit, Wade’s parents alleged that rigorous exercise was a customary initiation practice of the fraternity and that pledges also were beaten with paddles. The suit described how fraternity members failed to contact emergency medical personnel when Wade collapsed and instead drove him to a hospital 30 miles away, where he was dead on arrival.

Prairie View A&M was dropped from the suit after initially being named as a defendant, according to court records.

In April, the historically black university 45 miles northwest of Houston suspended its Phi Beta Sigma chapter through 2013 for violating the school’s anti-hazing policy. The AP reported in August that Wade’s death was at least the seventh hazing incident in seven years known to school officials.

The matter has been under review by law enforcement authorities in Waller County and is due to be presented to a grand jury sometime soon, according to Fred Edwards, the assistant district attorney handling the case.

The grand jury was scheduled to hear the case on Aug. 26, but officials decided on a postponement because some material wasn’t ready to be presented, Edwards said.

“It’s not a comment on the validity of the case,” he said. “It’s just a matter of me sitting down and going through the transcripts and getting material out that I think the grand jury is going to want to hear.”

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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