Arraignment rained out
The eight members of Chi Tau charged in the hazing death of Chico State student Matthew Carrington will have their day in court—again.
It took only a matter of minutes for Superior Court Judge Robert Glusman to OK a petition to postpone the arraignment until May 2, while lawyers continue to examine reports and prepare their cases.
Gabriel John Maestretti, 22, John Paul Fickes, 19, Carlos James DeVilla Abrille, 22, and Jerry Ming Lim, 25, all charged with misdemeanor hazing and felonious involuntary manslaughter, were present in court last Friday. Of the four men charged solely with hazing, only Rex Edward Garnett, 20, was in court. The lawyers for the other hazing suspects, Richard Joseph Hirth, 22, Michael Fernandes, 19, and Trent Stiefvater, 20, appeared on their behalf.
Carrington’s mother, Debbie Smith, and other family members showed up wearing badges on their shirts with the words: “Remembering Matt: Always in our thoughts, forever in our hearts. We miss you.”
“We’re just here to support Matt even if we have to drive five hours for one minute,” said Greg Smith, stepfather of Matthew Carrington, after last week’s scheduled arraignment.
Smith said she will continue to appear in court for her son Matthew, a process that could take some time as defense attorneys look to challenge California’s hazing law.
Denny Forland, the Chico attorney representing Trent Stiefvater, said he plans to file a demurrer, or a formal objection that doesn’t dispute the facts but states that the complaint is insufficient for legal action.
In this case, Forland said, the demurrer will attack “the broad language” of the state’s hazing law under the Education Code.
According to the law, hazing is any method of initiation or pre-initiation into a student organization that may cause or is likely to cause bodily danger, physical harm or personal degradation or disgrace resulting in physical or mental harm to a student.
The law doesn’t apply in this case, since Chi Tau was not affiliated with the university, says attorney Thomas Clute, who will seek dismissal of misdemeanor hazing charges against his client, Fernandes. “Unless this is a student event, they don’t have a leg to stand on,” said Clute.
But Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey said his office explored those avenues before filing the pleadings and that it will be up to a judge to decide.
If things go as planned, Ramsey said pleas will be entered on May 2 and that a preliminary hearing will be scheduled for the following weeks.
Ramsey said he’s hopeful that the trial will begin as early as summer, but that it depends on what happens in court in the coming weeks.
“We’ll have eight different attorneys there looking to muck up the works.”