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Fifteen Rutgers Students Arraigned In Frat Death

May 21, 1988

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) _ Fifteen Rutgers University students who face aggravated hazing charges in the drinking death of a freshman are being punished for an accident, their attorneys said.

″One boy accidentally died and now the state is going to punish 15 others,″ said Mark Denbeaux, a Newark attorney for one of the students.

Superior Court Judge George J. Nicola released the students on their own recognizance after they pleaded innocent Friday. They are scheduled to appear at a pre-trial conference July 5.

The students, seven of whom were officers of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity house, were named in a Middlesex County grand jury indictment that charged them with aggravated hazing in the Feb. 12 death of James Callahan of North Bergen.

An autopsy showed Callahan, 18, died from alcohol poisoning after drinking more than 23 ounces of alcohol at a Lambda Chi Alpha initiation party, prosecutor Alan Rockoff said.

An autopsy showed Callahan had a 0.434 percent blood alcohol content, or four times the level considered legally drunk in New Jersey.

″I still maintain it was not a hazing incident,″ said attorney Joseph J. Discenza, who represents Lambda Chi Alpha’s Board of Trustees and one student. ″It was really a tragic incident and criminal charges should never have been brought.″

Aggravated hazing charges carry a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison and a $7,500 fine, Rockoff said.

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