Two defendants charged with felony hazing in the criminal trial of late Cal Poly freshman Carson Starkey pleaded no contest to misdemeanor hazing charges and will serve jail time.
Zachary Ellis and Haithem Ibrahim, former members of the fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE), will serve 120 and 45 days respectively in county jail and three years of informal probation as sentenced by San Luis Obispo Judge Michael Duffy on June 8.
Deputy District Attorney Craig Van Rooyen was in charge of the case and communicated with the Starkey family about the final decisions.
“This is supported by the Starkey family,” Van Rooyen said.
After Ellis and Ibrahim were sentenced, Starkey’s family was quoted in a press release issued by the non-profit organization WithCarson, which the Starkey family set up to fight hazing after their son died as a result of respiratory arrest due to alcohol poisoning following a SAE pledge event in December 2008.
“Carson told us he was looking for brotherhood,” Carson’s mother Juila said. “Would you call the way you treated him brotherhood? Your actions and your choices to not help him that night are memories you and I will have to live with the rest of our lives.”
Scott Starkey told Ellis and Ibrahim that they failed his son.
“Your culture failed him. Your organization failed him. Your failed attempts at brotherhood failed him,” he said.
The attorneys for both Ellis and Ibrahim did not return calls by press time.
Van Rooyen said it is important for fraternities to know that dangerous initiation practices can constitute criminal conduct.
“This sends the message that this type of conduct will not be tolerated,” he said. “We are taking Matt’s Law seriously.”
Matt’s Law is a California law in memory of Matthew Carrington, a student at California State University, Chico who died in 2005. The law allows felony prosecutions for serious injuries or deaths from hazing crimes.
Two more former SAE members, Adam Marszel and Russell Taylor, are still set to face misdemeanor charges July 1.
A civil suit against the former SAE members, the officers of the local SAE chapter at the time of Starkey’s death and the national chapter is ongoing.
Tim Miller, Kevin List and Raquel Redding contributed to this report.