Hazing News

Utah State update: Judge chooses lighter sentencing option

USU student sentenced to 14 days in jail for hazing death
Crime » Christopher Ammon, 20, also got 200 hours of community service and $500 fine.

By Arrin Newton Brunson

Special To The Tribune

Salt Lake Tribune

Logan » A judge sentenced 20-year-old Utah State University student Christopher Ammon to 14 days in jail and 200 hours of community service for his role in November’s drinking death involving a Sigma Nu pledge.

First District Judge Thomas Willmore also ordered Ammon to pay a $500 fine. Ammon pleaded no contest earlier this year after a misdemeanor hazing charge was changed to unlawful sale or supply of alcohol to a minor, also a class B misdemeanor.

Ammon was a Sigma Nu member who took 18-year-old freshman Michael Starks to a sorority for an abduction prank, but left before the alleged hazing occurred. Starks was pledging last fall to the now-defunct Sigma Nu chapter.

According to court papers, as a reward for being the group’s top pledge, fraternity members chose Starks to take part in the capture ritual involving Chi Omega, a neighboring sorority.

While in the company of several sorority members Nov. 20 at an off-campus home, Starks consumed a lethal amount of vodka.

Ammon was remorseful for the death of the freshman fraternity pledge, said his attorney Dean Zabriskie.

“He no longer drinks,” Zabriskie said. “It was a wake-up call for all these young people.”

Ammon’s jail term starts Aug. 10, after his summer job ends and before USU’s fall semester starts.

“If I could do anything to go back and change that night, I would,” Ammon told Willmore.

Starks’ older brother George asked Willmore to use his discretion to teach a lesson to Ammon and his 12 co-defendants, all former USU Greek members.

“We ask you to really make sure that, when deciding what their penalties are going to be, you do everything possible to make sure they realize their role,” Starks said. “They have a lot to look forward to. Michael doesn’t.”

Willmore said he wants all the defendants involved in the tragedy to take responsibility for their actions.

“You could have gone and said, ‘Don’t give them alcohol,'” Willmore told Ammon. “You knew it would be there.”

The judge ordered Ammon to spend his community service teaching high school and college students about the dangers of binge drinking, underage drinking and hazing.

Felony hazing charges were dismissed against the Greek chapters, which had their charters revoked by their national organizations. Two members await sentencing for supplying alcohol, while four others are pursuing motions to dismiss hazing counts against them.

Reporter Brian Maffly contributed to this report.

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; 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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