— -- The Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity was indicted on Thursday for a 2016 hazing incident in which pledges were allegedly deprived of adequate food, water and sleep, prosecutors said.
A grand jury in Harris County, Texas, indicted the Tennessee-based Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity Inc. following concurrent investigations by the Harris County District Attorney's Office and the University of Houston. The indictment does not charge any individual criminally, but it subjects the fraternity to a fine of up to $10,000 as well as conviction for hazing, including mental and physical abuse.
An official representative for the fraternity will have to be present for court hearings, prosecutors said.
“Brotherhood and collegiate good times should be safe and hazing is not,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement announcing the charge. “It is also illegal and that should be recognized by the dozens of fraternities and sororities on college campuses all over the Houston area."
In a statement, Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity Inc. said it "does not tolerate hazing, maltreatment of members, or any activities that do not treat individuals with dignity and respect."
Pi Kappa Alpha emphasized that the hazing allegations outlined in the indictment occurred within the former Epsilon Eta chapter, whose charter was suspended in August after the international fraternity learned of the alleged misconduct.
"Epsilon Eta Chapter was a separate, unincorporated association composed of adult male undergraduate students attending the University of Houston," the statement read. "The Fraternity does not control any chapter or its members or their activities; however if a chapter violates the Fraternity’s Standards or any rules or regulations from the host school or any applicable local, state or federal agency, the Fraternity retains the right to suspend a chapter’s charter."
Thursday's indictment focuses on the treatment of one student at the University of Houston who was allegedly abused, like others, during a "brutal three-day rite" while pledging the fraternity in November 2016, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said the pledge was forced to roll around in vomit, spit and feces and go without food, drink and sleep throughout much of the ordeal. At one point, the pledge was ordered to run across a rural stretch of land in the darkness while holding a glow stick in what was apparently known as a "green light game," prosecutors said.
The pledge was then unexpectedly tackled by fraternity members, who were dressed in dark clothing and lying in wait, prosecutors said. He was later hospitalized for a lacerated spleen
In July, the University of Houston placed the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity under interim suspension pending an investigation. In October, the university suspended the fraternity for activities that violate the school's hazing policy after a months-long probe revealed violations that occurred off campus.
"Today we are grateful that our county partners have delivered a stern message through the grand jury’s decision against the fraternity, that such behavior, which jeopardizes the well being of our students, will not be tolerated," the University of Houston said in a statement reacting to the indictment Thursday.
The Harris County district attorney praised the university's efforts in the wake of the 2016 incident.
“The University of Houston showed resolve in conducting a thorough investigation and holding the fraternity accountable,” Ogg said.