Grand Jury Finds No Evidence of Criminal Wrongdoing in Death of Penn State Student

Marquise BrahamHARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane’s office today announced a statewide investigating grand jury has determined there is no evidence to support criminal charges in connection with the death of Marquise Braham.

Braham, 18, a student at the Altoona campus of Penn State University, committed suicide in March 2014 by jumping from a building in Uniondale, N.Y. The Office of Attorney General undertook an investigation of the incident amid allegations that Braham prior to his death had been subjected to hazing while pledging the fraternity Phi Sigma Kappa.

According to a grand jury report made public today, the grand jury found no evidence of a link between the fraternity pledging process and Braham’s death. However, the report underscores many ongoing issues in the pledging process. The grand jury said the report should “shine a light on what can happen to vulnerable 18 year olds when they go off to college.”

“As the grand jury makes very clear in its report, it is imperative that we take steps to protect young college students who are experiencing a vulnerable stage in their lives,” Attorney General Kane said. “We must do more to prevent these students from falling victim to dangerous situations when many are acclimating to being on their own for the first time.”

The grand jury tasked with investigating Braham’s death heard testimony from 11 witnesses, including some of Braham’s fraternity brothers. It also received summaries of interviews conducted with seven individuals.

The grand jury determined the evidence, which included two suicide notes, showed Braham had been contemplating suicide for a long time prior to his death. Multiple witnesses further confirmed that Braham, who was the secretary of his fraternity, loved his fraternity brothers and was proud to be a member.

Ultimately, the grand jury found that hazing at Phi Sigma Kappa was a fraternity-wide problem and not limited to a few individuals. Those factors, as well as the unwillingness or inability of former pledges to name persons allegedly responsible for the hazing, led the grand jury to decide against the recommendation of criminal charges for certain individuals.

Nonetheless, it said the hazing activities that occurred within the fraternity were “extremely dangerous and put the health and safety of all pledges at risk.” Some of the activities included locking individuals in closets, excessive drinking and vomiting, sleep deprivation and forced fighting.

“While one would hope these activities are the exception rather than the norm, we must take action to better safeguard our young students,” Attorney General Kane said. “This is a moment for everyone to consider the issues that students encounter when they arrive on college campuses across the Commonwealth.”

The grand jury report released today includes redactions of personal identifying information that were made at the request of the supervising judge of the 37th statewide investigating grand jury. The Office of Attorney General assumed jurisdiction of this case upon a formal referral made by Blair County District Attorney Richard A. Consiglio.

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