Theta Delt faces criminal charges
By Phil Salinger, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Wednesday, February 16, 2005
A grand jury indicted Theta Delta Chi fraternity last week on five felony counts of serving alcohol to minors. Each count carries a maximum fine of $100,000.
The indictments stem from an incident that occurred on the night of Wednesday, Jan. 5 after the fraternity's meetings, Hanover Police chief Nicholas Giaccone said.
According to College Proctor Harry Kinne, a member of Theta Delt made a "Good Samaritan" call to Safety and Security for assistance with an intoxicated member.
At the time of the original incident, Giaccone identified the student as Graham Sheasby '07.
Upon arrival, Safety and Security decided to call an ambulance because Sheasby was so drunk that he needed to be rushed to the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Kinne said.
The telephone call for an ambulance gave the police license to come to Theta Delt. When the police showed up, they determined that the situation was sufficiently out of control to merit an investigation, Giaccone said.
The decision to start an investigation "was based on the condition [of the student] and the amount of alcohol the person had consumed," Giaccone said.
Giaccone did not divulge the details of the investigation, except to say that it involved interviewing 19 different people with ties to the fraternity.
Representatives of Theta Delt declined to comment on the incident.
"It's a legal matter that I am not able to discuss," Theta Delt president Matt Nicholson '05 said.
The indictments come after the New Hampshire State Legislature laid out the definition of and the punishment for holding an underage house party with alcohol in March 2003.
House Bill 464 states that a "'drug or underage alcohol house party' means a gathering of five or more people under the age of 21 at any occupied structure, dwelling or curtilage, where at least one person under the age of 21Â unlawfully possesses or consumes an alcoholic beverage or controlled drug."
The bill also says that "a person shall be guilty of a misdemeanor for facilitating a drug or underage alcohol house party."
Theta Delt, however, has been indicted on felony charges. According to District Attorney Chris O'Connor, who is not personally handling this case, the indictments are more severe because a whole organization is being charged.
"Because they are charged as a corporation and a non-person, it is a felony level offense," O'Connor said.
The Theta Delt incident last month is the most pronounced example in recent memory of a "Good Samaritan" call resulting in serious, unexpected ramifications.
Safety and Security also prematurely ended a dance party at Chi Gamma Epsilon fraternity Jan. 22 after having been let into the fraternity because of multiple "Good Samaritan" calls.
Dartmouth's "Good Samaritan" policy states that "students and organizations that seek assistance ... will not be subject to College disciplinary action for either: (1) being the intoxicated person; or (2) having provided that person with alcohol."
The College, however, has not decided whether it will take additional action against Theta Delt, according to senior associate dean of the College Daniel Nelson, and could reserve judgement on such a decision until after legal action is completed.
"A decision about a possible College disciplinary hearing will be informed by information we collect or receive about the circumstances of the case," Nelson said.
Theta Delt may not be excused from College sanctions, Nelson explained, because fraternities cannot take advantage of the "Good Samaritan" policy in order to blatantly or consistently break rules.
"This 'Good Samaritan' policy guideline does not excuse or protect those individuals or organizations whose behavior flagrantly or repeatedly violates the College alcohol policy," Nelson said.
Hanover Police has no obligation to obey the College's "Good Samaritan" policy, Giaccone said.
Therefore, once Safety and Security called for an ambulance, and the police became involved, Theta Delt's impunity was voided.