Five Southern California college students have been charged in the alcohol-poisoning death of their fraternity brother, authorities said Wednesday.
Noah Domingo, 18, was found dead in January at the off-campus Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house for the University of California, Irvine with a blood alcohol level of 0.331 after a party.
The Orange County District Attorney's Office said in a statement the five fraternity brothers are all charged with misdemeanors.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said the law prevents prosecutors from filing felony charges. He said his office is pursuing legislative changes.
The fraternity's Irvine chapter was disbanded in the wake of Domingo's death and the university convened a task force to review the campus culture regarding alcohol and drugs.
"We remain saddened by Noah's tragic death earlier this year," university spokesman Tom Vasich said in a statement. "We are committed to educating our campus community on the dangers of underage drinking and are invested in preventing another such tragedy from occurring again."
The victim's father released a statement, expressing gratitude for the efforts of police and prosecutors: "The loss of Noah has crushed our family in ways only someone who has lost a child, or a brother, can begin to comprehend. Noah died because he decided to join Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Since Noah’s death, like so many other parents, we have discovered the horrifying truth about fraternity hazing, including the fact that numerous students have died as a result of hazing by SAE and its members."
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Zavier Larenz Brown, Domingo's "big brother" in the fraternity and now 21, has been charged with one misdemeanor count of furnishing alcohol to a minor causing great bodily injury.
Jonathan Anephi Vu, now 22 and a graduate of the university, is charged with one misdemeanor count of furnishing an alcoholic beverage to a minor. The other defendants are all still enrolled in the university.
Brown and Vu, as well as Mohamed Ibragim Kharaev, now 21, Caleb Gavin Valleroy, now 20, and Jonathan Gabriel Villicana, now 21, are charged with one misdemeanor count of violating the Irvine Municipal Code for allowing a party or gathering where underage drinking is permitted.
Brown faces up to 18 months in jail if convicted, while the others face up to 6 months. The statement says the defendants did not haze Domingo to drink until his death.
It was not immediately clear if they had lawyers to speak on their behalf.