Fraternity members could face life

News that charges of torture could be sought against the four former Chi Tau members charged with involuntary manslaughter and hazing in the death of 21-year-old Matthew Carrington shocked those in court last week and again piqued the interest of news outlets across the nation.

Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey said this week that the judge made mention of the possible torture charges in response to defense attorneys’ arguments that California’s hazing law doesn’t apply because Chi Tau was not recognized by the university and therefore not a “student organization.”

Defense attorney Anthony Cardoza has argued throughout that his client, 20-year-old Gabriel Maestretti, didn’t attend school and that the hazing law under the education code only applies to students and student organizations.

“I don’t believe those charges apply,” Cardoza told the CN&R this week.

Cardoza said he was surprised and “a bit disappointed” that Butte County Superior Court Judge Robert Glusman’s would suggest torture charges more than two months after he and other defense attorneys cross-examined Carrington’s pledge brother, 20-year-old Michael Quintana.

Charges of torture carry a possible life sentence under Article 206 of California’s penal code.

Ramsey stated in a court document that “…whoever uttered the infamous statement that some of the atrocities alleged to have occurred in the Abu Ghraib prison were no more than ‘fraternity pranks’ may have had the Chi Tau fraternity and its brothers in mind.”

Matthew Carrington died in the early morning hours of Feb. 2 after a bizarre, all-night hazing ritual in which he and Quintana were allegedly forced to chug large amounts of water and do pushups in the wet, frigid basement of the Chi Tau fraternity house. The 21-year-old business major collapsed and was pronounced dead at Enloe Medical Center due to water intoxication and hypothermia.

And although defense attorneys argue that the judge hadn’t read the entire transcript of evidence, Ramsey said they will likely go a different route in challenging any new charges.

“Whether voluntarily participating in torturous activity qualifies as a torture charge will be a legal issue,” Ramsey said.

The case again grabbed national headlines when MSNBC latched on to the story earlier this week, following up images of the former members of Chi Tau entering the courtroom with images of convicted torturers at the Abu Ghraib prison.

Matthew’s father Michael Carrington told the CN&R this week that he, too, was shocked by the events that unfolded at the end of the proceedings last week.

“I want justice to be served in the death of my son,” Carrington said. “Whatever the court decides, I’ll support that.”