Texas Fraternity Ordered to Pay $16.2 Million to Parents of Dead Pledge

Freshman fell from his fifth-floor balcony two years ago after being hazed by fraternity members.

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A Texas judge has awarded $16.2 million to the parents of a University of Texas freshman who fell to his death two years ago after being hazed by a campus fraternity, the Daily Texan reports. Tyler Cross, 18, was a pledge at Sigma Alpha Epsilon, whose local chapter and national organization are being ordered to pay the student's parents $2.5 million for mental anguish and nearly $81,000 for funeral expenses, as well as additional damages.

According to investigators, on the night Cross fell from his fifth-floor balcony, pledges were given half-gallon bottles of liquor to drink, and an autopsy report showed Cross had a blood alcohol level more than twice the Texas legal driving limit. The lawsuit also said that Cross was subjected to sleep deprivation, beatings with large bamboo sticks and paddles, and "other acts of assault or battery" in the days before his death.

This year, four SAE members pleaded no contest to various hazing- and alcohol-related charges, and the fraternity has agreed to revamp its pledging and social activities in order to remain on campus. The organization must now give the school advance notice of parties, limit its attendance, hire off-duty police, and hold parties only on the weekend with a 2 a.m. curfew.

A civil case against several alumni groups associated with the fraternity is pending.