Three former Sigma Alpha Epsilon pledges were acquitted of criminal charges in connection with the death of George Desdunes ’13, who died after a hazing ritual in February 2011, a Tompkins County judge ruled Tuesday afternoon.
Max Haskin ’14, Ben Mann ’14 and Edward Williams ’14 were charged with first-degree hazing and first-degree unlawfully dealing with a child. They had been awaiting the verdict since the four-day trial concluded on May 24.
During the trial, Judge Judith Rossiter J.D. ’86 heard evidence from both the district attorney and the SAE pledges’ defense team on the events of the morning of Desdunes’ death on Feb. 25, 2011. She ruled Tuesday that the pledges were not guilty, according to Ray Schlather J.D. '76, a defense attorney in the case.
"The court determined, without reservation or equivocation, that these young men are innocent. They did not haze George Desdunes or cause his death," Schlather said.
In May, after the trial, Rossiter said she hoped the pledges would learn a lesson from the tragedy of Desdunes’ death.
“Even college boys who are engaging in what they hope is good fun are subject to the same rules of time and death as anyone else,” she said. “If nothing else, I hope they take that from this experience.”
Schlather added that "there are no winners in this tragedy."
“The family of George Desdunes has lost a son, and these young pledges were unnecessarily scapegoated, and their lives have been irreparably damaged,” Schlather said.