Trivializing Matt’s Law

As Richard Ek argued, the Beta case was a waste of scarce resources

It’s too bad Richard Ek isn’t around to learn that District Attorney Mike Ramsey’s Matt’s Law case against members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity has bombed in court (see Downstroke).

Back in January, just a few months before he died, the then-retired journalism professor and frequent contributor to the CN&R penned a Guest Comment piece in these pages that pretty much predicted the case would flop and urged Ramsey to drop it.

The law was passed in 2006, following the 2005 death due to water intoxication of Matt Carrington during hazing at the rogue Chi Tau fraternity. In his commentary, Ek noted that the 13 Beta pledges who allegedly had been illegally hazed had all signed affidavits that they “had not been subject to acts that could lead to ‘serious bodily injury,’ as defined in Matt’s Law.” In addition, each had accepted a dollar from each of the three defendants to compromise, and thus nullify, the case from a civil standpoint.

On top of that, Chico State University had punished the fraternity, withdrawing its recognition and suspending its top officers for a semester.

Ek wondered why “scarce county resources and court time [were] being used on such a flimsy case of Greek hijinks?” The court action, he said, “smacks of overkill and trivializes Matt’s Law.” He called it “grandstanding,” and—as a jury decided this week—he was right.