Here's the latest on this incident:
3 men are arrested in suspected SMU hazing
5 others also charged in pledges' water-drinking incident
04:02 AM CST on Tuesday, December 9, 2003
By MICHAEL GRABELL / The Dallas Morning News
Eight men could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of assaulting Southern Methodist University fraternity pledges with an unusual deadly weapon: water.
In a northeast Dallas apartment last month, Braylon Curry and another SMU fraternity pledge were forced to drink hot sauce and gallons of water and were beaten with wooden paddles, authorities said.
Mr. Curry, an SMU junior, went into a coma, suffering from pulmonary edema, a condition in which water enters the lungs, and hyponatremia, a sodium imbalance brought on by excess fluid consumption, doctors said.
"If they refused to drink, if they stopped drinking, if they weren't drinking fast enough, they were beaten with paddles," said Bill Turnage, a deputy Dallas police chief in the northeast division.
Dallas police arrested three men in the case Monday and have issued arrest warrants for five more connected with Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
SMU students Brandon Perry, 20, and Cornelius Smith, 21, were taken into custody in their dormitory rooms. Another man, Uche Kalu, 23, was arrested at his apartment.
Mr. Kalu remained in Dallas County jail Monday night, with bail set at $25,000. Mr. Perry and Mr. Smith were released after posting bond; their bail had been set at $25,000 each.
One student who has not been arrested attends another area college, police said.
The weight of the felony charges is unusual for hazing cases and could challenge the state's definition of "deadly weapon," hazing experts and attorneys said.
"When the Legislature wrote that statement, they didn't know it was going to be used for water and for air," said Greg Westfall, a criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth. "We're seeing more and more folks getting creative with how high they can make the offense."
Texas law defines a deadly weapon as anything that in the manner of its use or intended use is capable of causing death or serious bodily injury.
To prove their case, prosecutors will have to show that the fraternity members knew the dangers of drinking too much water.
SMU officials said the university had held an educational anti-hazing event the Friday before the Nov. 14 incident and published a half-page advertisement of Texas hazing law in the campus newspaper that day.
"They had prior knowledge that consuming that much water could cause death or serious bodily injury," Deputy Chief Turnage said.
In a similar incident in Plattsburgh, N.Y., 11 members of a State University of New York fraternity faced charges including criminally negligent homicide after an 18-year-old student died from drinking excessive amounts of water through a funnel.
The students all pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of hazing. One student faces a one-year jail sentence, was expelled from the university and was ordered to pay thousands of dollars to produce an educational video on the dangers of hazing as part of the plea deal.
In Texas, vehicles, fists and pencils have been classified as deadly weapons.
"We have had cases in Texas before where items were declared deadly weapons, and I'm not really sure should have been," said Cynthia Orr of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.
She pointed to a 2000 case in Austin in which a man was accused of giving cocaine to a minor 20 to 30 times. The court found that cocaine was not a deadly weapon because the man did not intend to injure the victim, and because the minor ingested the cocaine voluntarily, she said.
SMU has suspended the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity from campus and is considering disciplinary action against four students as part of its own investigation, said Jim Caswell, SMU's vice president for student affairs.
"There's no question to the seriousness of this, and the charge again reflects that," he said.
The national organization, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., plans to revoke the charter of SMU's chapter at its January meeting, said Harry E. Johnson Sr., the fraternity's general president.
"We don't tolerate any form of hazing. That's not a part of our initiation process," he said. "We're just happy that the young man is doing better, and the students will have to face the consequences of the court."
Mr. Curry, 21, has lost about 20 pounds and is recovering at home in Maryland, said his father, Bishop Curry III.
"We're basically just trying to provide support and nurture him back to health," he said. "He's weak. He's lost a considerable amount of weight."
Dr. Curry said his son will complete requirements for fall semester's courses in the spring and hasn't decided whether he will return to SMU full-time.