A family alleging that fraternity hazing drove their 18-year-old son and Penn State Altoona student to suicide last March is now attempting to get Pennsylvania's elected state officials to consider harsher penalties under the state's anti-hazing law.
Pennsylvania's anti-hazing law criminalizes hazing as a third-degree misdemeanor.
The family of Marquise Braham, through a Monday press release, is asking Gov. Tom Corbett to fast-track legislation to help make hazing a felony in Pennsylvania.
Rep. John McGinnis, R-Altoona, said he thinks the penalty under the state's anti-hazing law doesn't reflect the potentially fatal impact of hazing.
"I'm not sure that Act 175 (the anti-hazing law) is adequate since there could be cases where hazing results in serious harm or death, and that could have been the case with Mr. Braham. And it would seem a misdemeanor conviction would be insufficient in such cases," McGinnis wrote in an email.
The family, through a press release by its public relations specialist Mike Paul, stated the family's desire for Corbett to "fast-track" legislation to help make hazing a felony in Pennsylvania "as soon as possible."
McGinnis said he is not aware of any bills poised to upgrade hazing to a felony offense, but said there may be such proposals.
In cases where hazing might lead to death, the penalty "doesn't seem like it's sufficient, that's for sure," Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Blair, said.
Eichelberger said no fast-track exists for changing a law like that, and to his knowledge there is no proposed legislation to increase the penalty for hazing in the state. A number of hearings would be needed before Legislature increased the penalty, he said.
"I would be open to looking at it, but it would take some time to get legislation written and take a look at it in a very deliberate manner, working with people from across the spectrum in schools," Eichelberger said.
McGinnis agreed with a cautious approach to updating anti-hazing laws.
"As with all proposed legislation, I would have to look at it carefully before making up my mind to support it or oppose it," he stated in an email. "Most legislation goes through a long vetting process, and I think that would be the best approach with trying to upgrade the hazing offense since it involves numerous issues and complexities."
Braham was a freshman at Penn State Altoona the fall semester of 2013 when he pledged Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity as a first semester freshman. He was named secretary of his fraternity in the spring semester of his freshman year in January 2014, when he was still 18 years old.
The press release contained a message from Braham's parents to new students in their son's situation as a freshman.
"Become fully educated about Greek fraternal life (fraternities and sororities) especially violations and illegal activities regarding hazing from junior high school through college. ... If you think you know what is going on in fraternities and sororities today, you have no idea. They are taking greater risks than you can ever imagine and putting many young lives, bodies, minds and souls in crisis, and worse, many are being killed like our son."
Mirror Staff Writer Russ O'Reilly is at 946-7435.