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Hearing held for NIU hazing suspects

Published: Friday, Aug. 31, 2012 4:39 p.m. CDT

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SYCAMORE – The 20-year-old Naperville man who police said planned the fraternity party where a 19-year-old pledge died, stood quietly between his attorney and uncle in court Friday.

Steven A. Libert’s first court appearance on a felony hazing charge related to David Bogenberger’s death was largely routine: Judge Robbin Stuckert read the charges and gave him permission to travel to Wisconsin to help his mother move.

The short hearing marked the beginning of the legal process for the 22 Northern Illinois University students charged with hazing.

Five face felony charges; 17 were charged with misdemeanors.

Also appearing in court Friday afternoon were Omar Salameh, 21, of DeKalb, the fraternity’s pledge adviser, and James P. Harvey, 21, of DeKalb, the fraternity’s vice president.

Fraternity President Alexander M. Jandick, 21, of Naperville, is next due in court Feb. 11, and court records did not indicate a court date for fraternity Secretary Patrick W. Merrill, 19, of DeKalb.

The five could face a maximum sentence of one to three years in prison or could be sentenced to probation, if convicted of the felony hazing charges.

The charges stem from an unsanctioned “parents night” party the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, also known as the Pikes, hosted Nov. 1 for freshman Bogenberger and 18 other pledges, police said.

The event was not registered with the national fraternity organization or with NIU officials, authorities said.

Bogenberger and the other pledges drank vodka and other liquor from plastic cups for about two hours while playing a game in which they were asked a series of questions related to their assigned “moms” and “dads,” authorities said.

The moms were fraternity members’ girlfriends or members of various sororities, while the dads were upperclassmen in the fraternity.

Police have said the women at the party were not charged because they weren’t the ones who provided the alcohol or encouraged the drinking.

Bogenberger, a 2012 Palatine High School graduate, was found dead in a bunk bed in the fraternity house about 10 a.m. the next morning. His blood-alcohol level was 0.351 percent.

DeKalb County Coroner Dennis Miller ruled Bogenberger’s death accidental. Miller said the cause was “cardiac arrhythmia, with alcohol intoxication as a significant condition contributing to death.”

Several other pledges told authorities they got sick or passed out because of heavy drinking, police said.

Libert’s attorney, Joshua Dieden, extended condolences to Bogenberger’s family and said his death also was difficult for Libert, who considered Bogenberger a friend.

“With all that said, I don’t believe the state will be able to show this tragic occurrence was the result of criminal conduct,” Dieden said.

The Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, along with 31 student members, also is facing university-based charges that could affect the fraternity’s permanent status as a registered student organization, Northern Illinois University officials have said. The students face various sanctions, with penalties possibly rising to expulsion from the university.

DeKalb County State’s Attorney Richard Schmack, through his office manager, declined to comment on the case.

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