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Sorority members added to fraternity party death lawsuit

An attorney for the family of a Northern Illinois University freshman who died after a pledge party earlier this school year has added 16 sorority members to a lawsuit he had filed against the fraternity and its members.

The wrongful death suit, amended Friday to include the female NIU students, also names the fraternity, Pi Kappa Alpha, and 22 fraternity members who also face criminal charges related to the death of 19-year-old David Bogenberger.

Bogenberger, who grew up in Palatine and was an NIU freshman, had been drinking excessively at a “Mom’s and Dad’s Night” pledge party when he died in November. The pledges had been told that participating in the party was a condition of being accepted to the fraternity, according to the lawsuit.

The Bogenberger family’s attorney, Peter Coladarci, said the women also should be held accountable for Bogenberger’s death because they participated in the initiation ritual at the fraternity house, and may have given him the alcohol or encouraged him to drink it. The women were members of various NIU sororities, Coladarci said.

“They were participating with the active (fraternity) members in hazing,” Coladarci said. “The perception of the pledges was that the women were just as much in charge as the men and were doling out liquor.”

The civil lawsuit alleges that the NIU students failed to get Bogenberger help when he became unconscious after a two-hour pledge initiation party on Nov. 1. Bogenberger was found dead in the fraternity house the following day. His blood-alcohol level was as high as 0.43 percent – more than five times the legal limit for driving, Coladarci has said.

During the event, the pledges went to various rooms in the fraternity house where they were asked questions and told to drink by fraternity and sorority members – the party’s “moms” and “dads,” Coladarci said.

“The Bogenbergers want people to know if they participate in events like this, they will be held morally and legally accountable,” Coladarci said.

The lawsuit also alleges that the fraternity's national organization failed to ensure that its chapters were warned about the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption, and did not do enough to ensure the NIU chapter was following anti-hazing policies.

The Memphis, Tenn.-based fraternity has said in a statement that it educates members on such topics through its website, anti-hazing programs and educational conferences.

It suspended the NIU chapter after Bogenberger's death.

The lawsuit seeks more than $100,000 in damages.

Five student officers of the fraternity have been charged with felony hazing violations, and 17 others face misdemeanor counts stemming from Bogenberger's death.

jscohen@tribune.com

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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