At least a dozen members of a Penn State Altoona fraternity have sought legal advice after their chapter was suspended pending investigations into a fraternity brother's suicide.
With guidance from an attorney, the president of Phi Sigma Kappa has prepared statements for Logan Township police. In addition to the written statements, attorney Ted Krol said he intends for his client, Eric Traister, to meet with police.
Meanwhile, 11 Altoona Phi Sigma Kappa brothers sought counsel from attorney Tom Dickey on Friday evening.
Their fraternity is under investigation for alleged hazing activities that the family of Marquise Braham believe led him to jump to his death from the roof of a New York hotel on March 14.
Krol, speaking for Traister, on Thursday denied all specific allegations of hazing at the fraternity.
After meeting with the 11 fraternity brothers, Dickey told the Mirror, "This is very sad and tragic thing, period. Nothing changes that."
"These kids thought the world of Marquise. They thought Marquise thought highly of them," he added.
Dickey said he asked them about their initiation activities.
"My feeling is that they are getting a bad rap," he said. He declined to say what their initiation activities might be.
Dickey said he believes it is impossible to prove the reason why Braham took his life.
Braham's family has asked for Phi Sigma Kappa to fully cooperate with police investigations.
"These kids are of the opinion that there are a lot of things that could have led to his suicide," Dickey said.
He declined to elaborate on what those issues were.
Braham family spokesman Mike Paul said "a tremendous" amount of information on Braham's laptop and cellphone show why the family believes that the single reason for his suicide was the guilt and distress he felt for participating in hazing practices. Paul does not believe there is any other reason for the death.
Dickey defended the brothers' decision to seek out legal counsel.
"The fraternity brothers seeking attorneys has nothing to do with not wanting to cooperate with police," Dickey said. "It's about making sure things they say don't get twisted around. These guys are students in school, away from their parents. They are ignorant of the law and needed confirmation that they have rights."
Fraternity brothers had initially agreed to speak with police upon learning of Braham's death, but later declined, campus spokeswoman Shari Routch said.
Krol said Traister consented to a discussion with police. Relating information he gleaned from Traister, Krol said police took an investigatory tone with Traister that he did not expect. Traister's experience deterred others.
Penn State Altoona, receiving calls from parents concerned that police were involved in the grieving process, said that no police were present during on-campus grieving sessions. A grief counseling session with the members of Phi Sigma Kappa was held Sunday evening. The session was led by Dr. Joy Himmel, director of counseling and psychological services at Penn State Altoona, and was also attended by Director of Student Affairs Sean Kelly as well as two adult advisers of the fraternity, Routch said.
"There was absolutely no police presence at this counseling session; the session's entire focus was on grief counseling and open discussion with members of the fraternity and Dr. Himmel. At the close of the session, after Dr. Himmel had concluded her grief counseling and had left the meeting, Director of Student Life Dani Fry told members of the fraternity that Penn State Altoona police were looking into Marquise's death and his time on campus, at the request of Marquise's father," Routch wrote in an email. "The students were asked to volunteer to speak with the police on Monday and a sign-up sheet was made available for them, if they so chose. Although a number of the fraternity members did sign up voluntarily, only one student actually met with Penn State Altoona police on Monday."
Paul said the message Marquise's father, Rich Braham, wants to give to the fraternity brothers is to "search your hearts. You are getting a lot of messages. If you truly love Marquise, do what's best in his name right now. Communicate what you know instead of being guarded."
Phi Sigma Kappa brother Ramsey Hakki posted on Braham's Facebook page on Thursday: "We all love you Keys and I know you never said those lies."
The post had 12 "likes."