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Seven additional individuals charged in connection to 2021 MSU fraternity hazing death

February 9, 2024
<p>Pi Alpha Phi House photographed on Dec. 17, 2021.</p>

Pi Alpha Phi House photographed on Dec. 17, 2021.

Photo by Rahmya Trewern | The State News

Seven additional individuals have been charged with hazing resulting in death after Phat Nguyen, an MSU business college student, died of alcohol intoxication in 2021 at a welcome event at the now-disbanded Pi Alpha Phi fraternity

Two Pi Alpha Phi members — Ethan Cao and Andrew Nguyen — were charged in 2022 with three misdemeanor accounts and one felony account of hazing resulting in death

Now, seven more individuals have been handed the same charge.

The seven individuals who have been charged are Courtney Thang, 22; Ali Ghazi, 23; David Shim, 23; Hannah Lee, 24; Sumin Yoo, 22; Nicholas Phraxayavong, 23; and Hoang John Pham, 24, MLive reported.

In a statement provided to MLive, Ingham County Prosecutor John Dewane said, “further investigation by East Lansing Police resulted in the development of additional suspects. That further information was reviewed by the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office, which filed the additional charges.”

East Lansing Police Department was originally in charge of the case that has since been passed to the Ingham County Prosecutor’s office

Brian Morley, the attorney who has been representing Andrew Nguyen — who is not related to Phat Nguyen — since 2022, said the seven additional individuals charged change nothing for his defense of Andrew Nguyen

“I don’t think (Andrew Nguyen) did anything wrong,” Morley said. “That’s my opinion as his attorney.”

But Morley said he thinks there’s a “mob mentality” in bringing charges against people who may have been bystanders

“All of these people that were in, or even at a fraternity where something happened … by their mere presence, they’re being charged criminally,” Morley said. “On everything I've seen, I don't see a basis for that, at least with respect to my client.”

Attorneys representing Ethan Cao, who was charged in 2022, could not be reached at the time of publication.  

Charges against a third defendant, John Pham, who was arrested along with Cao and Andrew Nguyen, were dropped in 2022, the Lansing State Journal reported

Pham’s attorney told the Lansing State Journal that Pham was the president of the fraternity and organized the welcome event but had no part in the hazing of the pledges.

On Nov. 19, 2021, the MSU chapter of Pi Alpha Phi hosted the crossing party to welcome four new pledges to the fraternity. The party ended with the death of Phat Nguyen and the three other pledges being transported to Sparrow Hospital.

Witnesses told The State News they saw scenes of a dirty basement room where three individuals were stripped down to their shorts with profane writings on their back, lying over mattresses unconscious

“It was hazing,” one witness said. “He was hazed to death and that is the truth.”

Police were not called until 1:58 a.m., which was two hours after Phat Nguyen first lost consciousness, according to a statement released by the law firm representing the family of Phat Nguyen.

“The principal aim of the ‘blackout’ event was to get the pledges, including Phat, as drunk as possible as fast as possible so they would blackout or 'die' and be 'reborn' as members of the fraternity,” the statement reads

In a Feb. 9 statement to The State News, MSU spokesperson Mark Bullion said, “The loss of one of our students is a loss for our entire Spartan community. We hold Phat, his loved ones and friends, close to our hearts.”

Bullion added that over the last several years, MSU has taken implemented measures to increase “oversight” and “accountability” for Registered Student Organization, or RSO, conduct. This includes having a dedicated staff member who works directly with RSOs on conduct when appropriate.  

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Most recently, he said, revisions have been made to the Student Rights and Responsibilities document, which allows for an “investigatory model to be employed with RSOs.”

“This allows the Office of Student Support and Accountability to examine reports more easily and, in turn, take swift action, when appropriate,” the statement said.

Following Phat Nguyen’s death, the Pi Alpha Phi fraternity was put under interim suspension then revoked on Dec. 9 for a minimum of 10 years, The State News reported

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