No criminal charges for Pundits

The Yale Police Department does not have enough evidence to pursue criminal charges against the Pundits, Yale’s senior prank society, for events that took place at their Feb. 19 pre-tap naked party.

YPD Chief Ronnell Higgins told the News in a phone interview Friday evening that the department had concluded its criminal investigation of the party. The YPD, he said in a Sunday e-mail, did not have sufficient basis to pursue any criminal charges against members of the Pundits or any students who attended the organization’s party. One student, however, was charged for an infraction of serving alcohol to minors, Higgins said, declining to confirm whether the student is a Pundit.

Higgins said on Sunday that the investigation into the Pundits’ party began after five attendees — three of whom were underage, according to Higgins — were sent to Yale-New Haven Hospital for alcohol-related treatment. Following reports of underage drinking and an anonymous report that a sexual assault had occurred at the party, the YPD opened an investigation, he said. He also confirmed on Friday that his Feb. 28 e-mail to the Yale community about a “possible sexual assault involving Yale undergraduates that occurred at an off campus party on 2/19” was, in fact, a result of the Pundits’ party.

But even though the YPD’s investigation is over, the Yale College Executive Committee, the highest disciplinary body for undergraduates, is continuing an investigation into the events that took place at the party, to determine whether any violations of Yale’s Undergraduate Regulations may have occurred, Higgins said.

As a result of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity incident in October, the Yale College Dean’s Office is in the midst of reviewing hazing’s role in Yale campus groups’ initiation rituals. The review includes not only fraternities, but senior societies and extracurricular groups as well. Yale College Dean Mary Miller declined to comment Sunday on the investigation’s closing, other than to confirm that the YPD had looked into the party.

“I am deeply disturbed by initial reports of heavy drinking by underage students in a context that could be construed as hazing,” Miller said in a Mar. 2 email in reference to the Pundits’ party. “Yale College does not tolerate hazing or intimidation: I’m well aware that a feature of hazing is that it can be difficult for someone victimized by it to come forward.”

Fifteen attendees interviewed following the party painted a mixed picture of the evening: some said they felt victimized by events they witnessed or were asked to partake in, while others said they did not see anything they considered to be out of the ordinary, given the nature of the event.

About 50 people attended the party, which was by invitation only and hosted by the Pundits, multiple attendees said. Students were told to arrive in costume, but midway through the night were told to disrobe. One attendee, who spoke to the News on the condition of anonymity and complied with the YPD’s investigation, said a police investigator asked unprompted whether sexual misconduct had occurred at the party. The student recalled for the investigator witnessing a member of the Pundits forcing attendees to kiss each other and that one member of the society forced a male friend’s face onto another’s penis.

Although his department is not pursuing criminal charges at this time, Higgins encouraged anyone with additional information about the party to share that information with YPD investigator Sgt. Peter Brano, Executive Committee Secretary Pamela George or their residential college dean.

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