No torture, but more exposure

As the proverbial wheels of justice continue to get bogged down in a muck of motions and appeals from defense attorneys, the parents of Matthew Carrington are pushing forward.

In a drive that has become numbingly routine, Michael Carrington and Debbie Smith made the three-hour trip from the Bay Area to the Butte County Courthouse last week as attorneys for the seven men charged in the hazing death of their son continued to engage in the standard legal maneuvering.

With tears streaming down her face, Smith expressed her frustration as she walked out of the courtroom.

“I’m so tired of it all,” Smith said, burying her head in her husband Greg’s chest.

Last week’s hearing was especially intense as Butte County Superior Court Judge Robert Glusman ruled that there wasn’t enough evidence to seek charges of torture against the seven former members of Chi Tau.

Glusman made mention of the possible torture charges Aug. 12 in response to defense attorneys’ arguments that California’s hazing law didn’t apply since Chi Tau was not recognized by the university and therefore not a “student organization.” However, Glusman shot down the motion last week, explaining that the fraternity house was near campus and that several of the members were students. Five of the seven defendants were previously enrolled at Chico State.

Arguments will also be heard in the coming weeks on whether or not the three misdemeanor defendants will stand trial with the four men charged with involuntary manslaughter, a felony.

Gabriel John Maestretti, 22, John Paul Fickes, 20, Carlos James DeVilla Abrille, 22, and Jerry Ming Lim, 25, are charged with involuntary manslaughter and misdemeanor hazing. Another three members are charged with violating California’s hazing law under the Education Code: Richard Joseph Hirth, 22, Michael Fernandes, 19, and Trent Stiefvater, 20.

In the meantime, Carrington and Smith—who divorced when Matthew was a small boy—have immersed themselves in individual projects that they hope will educate others, but also help themselves cope with the loss of their son.

Carrington has set up the Matt Carrington Project, a nonprofit he’s been working on for the past several months. He said the sole purpose of the project is to stop student-on-student violence through guest speakers and that he would eventually like to build an interactive Web site where people can share information. Carrington also spoke on campus earlier this month to members of the athletic department at Chico State.

“I just keep moving forward,” Carrington told the CN&R this week. “If I stop I’ll get so depressed. I need to continue doing positive things.”

Smith has already started a Web site called, which includes biographic information, links to other sites and past articles as well as a multi-media feature with an anti-hazing video that was produced by Chico State in March. The short film was shown to incoming freshmen during this year’s summer orientation.

Smith has also been working with attorneys to pass a law that would make hazing illegal under California’s penal code, rather than the Education Code. Smith hopes “Matt’s Law” will eliminate loose interpretations of the law and include all groups and individuals, not just school organizations.

A producer from NBC’s Dateline could also be seen with Smith and her husband at last week’s court appearance. Smith said the television news program will continue to follow her throughout the proceedings and into the trial until a possible verdict is reached, which she hopes will also spread the word across the country.