Charges dropped in SAE cases

Charges will not be pressed against two Sigma Alpha Epsilon members who were arrested in early November in relation to what police called a fraternity scavenger hunt, and no disciplinary action will be taken against the organization.

Attorneys for SAE members Steven Kuchta ’09 and Stephen Sherrill ’09 said that all charges, including larceny in the sixth degree, were dropped against their clients Tuesday after they performed 35 hours of community service. New Haven Police Department Spokeswoman Bonnie Winchester said the students, along with two other SAE members, were arrested Nov. 5 while participating in a fraternity-sponsored scavenger hunt for rushes.

National SAE spokesman Nicholas Ziegler said that while scavenger hunts are strictly prohibited by fraternity policy, the national group does not plan to take disciplinary action against the Yale chapter.

“From the investigation, it seems that the chapter is fine and active,” he said.

Inquiries regarding the arrests were conducted by local fraternity officials. Field directors — members of the national organization who handle specific geographic regions — have greater access to fraternity members and are often better able to handle the details of investigations, he said.

But field director Jason Andrick, who investigated the larceny charges, said that despite numerous conversations with SAE members, including chapter president Bill Deitch ’06, no member formally mentioned any scavenger hunt.

“That language wasn’t used,” he said. “The only time I heard the phrase scavenger hunt was in the original News article. There was no formal reprimand, but on an individual level there have been proceedings.”

Deitch, whose term as chapter president expired last semester, declined to comment on action taken by the national SAE chapter. Sam Beutler ’07, the current president, did not return repeated requests for comment.

NHPD officials said Kuchta and Sherrill told police they were participating in a scavenger hunt at the time of their arrests.

Scavenger hunts, Ziegler said, fall under the definition of hazing, which the pledge handbook defines as “any action or situation created intentionally, whether on or off fraternity premises, to produce mental or physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment or ridicule.”

Despite the fact that no formal disciplinary action was taken against the fraternity, Zeigler said that SAE stands by its law against hazing. He said the law, created by the North American Inter-Fraternity Conference, applies to all fraternities.

Jon Williamson, executive vice president of the NIC, said the rule against scavenger hunts was put in place decades ago because the NIC believed them to be potentially dangerous activities with more drawbacks then benefits.

“There are better things to do with your time,” he said. “For many people, scavenger hunts might be considered a bonding experience, but we could come up with better things to do that would build brotherhood and contribute to the greater good of the community. Most [activities] are centered on some kind of community service or philanthropy, which are far more productive.”

William Dow ’63, who represented Sherrill, said that in addition to all charges being dropped against his client, Sherrill will be able to legally swear in the future that he was never arrested.

Winchester said that Kuchta, who was charged with conspiracy to commit criminal mischief in the third degree and larceny in the sixth degree, was arrested for allegedly helping to break a window in front of Samurai. Yale Police Department Lt. Michael Patten said that Sherrill, who was arrested by the YPD later that night, was arrested for allegedly stealing toilet paper dispensers from Lanman-Wright. Sherrill was charged with criminal mischief in the third degree, larceny in the sixth degree and interfering with a police officer.

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