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UConn Fraternity President Charged with Strangling Pledge in Hazing Incident

News outlets report that a fraternity president at the University of Connecticut was arrested and charged with third-degree strangulation and other crimes last week. These events allegedly took place in early February during a fraternity hazing ritual involving endurance and physical abuse at an off-campus residence.

The suspect, David Vallejo, committed the alleged acts in two separate incidents against a pledge for Lambda Theta Pi. In one incident, pledges were made to do pushups while reciting words spoken by fraternity members. When a pledge exhausted himself and was no longer able to do pushups, Vallejo allegedly threw the pledge against a wall, then pressed his forearm against the pledge’s throat.

The next day, pledges were given information about the fraternity to memorize and recite while doing pushups. The same pledge from the previous day was once again unable to do pushups, and Vallejo once again threw him against the wall and pressed his forearm against his throat. Vallejo then told the pledge to quit.

The pledge ended his effort to join the fraternity, but was assaulted a third time by Vallejo when he returned his pledge uniform a few weeks later, per an affidavit.

Violent Hazing & Compliance

Violent hazing is one of the most common forms of hazing. In many ways, it’s the oldest and crudest forms of hazing; the difference between hazing and bullying blurs when a fraternity’s tools are so straightforward. Perpetrators use violence or the threat of violence to elicit compliance from potential recruits, which is also how physical abuse works in any other context.

Vallejo’s alleged actions in this case illustrate the brute purpose of hazing: to force pledges into compliance with fraternity officers or out of the fraternity entirely. This situation illustrates how dangerous it is for a young person to view genuine exhaustion as an excuse to abuse his authority. Both UConn and the national office of Lambda Theta Pi must take swift action against all fraternity officers in this case; the fact that such abuse was able to take place three times without intervention indicates that this was accepted behavior, so the fraternity members who allowed it to happen must be held accountable as well.

How STFBC Is Here to Help

Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain, P.A. is a leader in both hazing litigation and legislation. Our hazing lawyers won the largest hazing verdict in U.S. history and drafted groundbreaking anti-hazing laws designed to save students from exactly this sort of behavior. If you’ve been injured from hazing or know someone who’s been hazed, speak with our firm in a free consultation. We can discuss your legal options and fight for your recovery against those responsible for your harm.