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UVa fraternity incident being investigated

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Posted: Friday, March 11, 2011 11:10 am | Updated: 3:28 pm, Wed Jan 23, 2013.

A 19-year-old University of Virginia fraternity pledge wound up in intensive care after ingesting a meal of dog food, matzo balls and gefilte fish and topping it off with 12 to 18 ounces of soy sauce, court documents show.

Police and university officials are investigating the incident as a possible case of hazing.

After the first-year student started seizing, brothers from Zeta Psi fraternity took the pledge to the Martha Jefferson Hospital emergency room, court records show. At the emergency room, he was also foaming at the mouth, according to an affidavit requesting a search warrant.

The victim was later transferred to the intensive care ward at the UVa Medical Center before being released, in all spending four days hospitalized, according to affidavits police filed to request search warrants. He required treatment for an electrolyte imbalance caused by the high sodium content of the soy sauce, the affidavits show.

“[A brother] stated that this ‘meal’ is a tradition at Zeta Psi and that only fraternity pledges ate the meal,” wrote Investigator William C. Sowers of the UVa police in one affidavit.

Police requested search warrants for the victim’s medical records and the class transcript of one of the brothers who transported the victim to the hospital, a pre-med student, who police believe might have consulted class materials before taking the pledge to the emergency room, records show.

A university spokeswoman declined to comment on the incident, citing the ongoing police investigation.

“While it has not yet been determined whether this incident was related to hazing, hazing is illegal in the state of Virginia and considered a serious criminal offense, as well as a violation of university policy,” spokeswoman Carol Wood wrote in an e-mail. “If found guilty, students are subject to criminal penalties and also university judiciary processes that impose separate penalties, up to and including expulsion from the university. The university is cooperating fully with the ongoing police investigation and has launched its own investigation of this incident.”

University officials could bring a case before the school’s judiciary committee even if the police investigation doesn’t turn up evidence of a criminal violation, but that decision won’t be made until after the police inquiry wraps up.

A call to the university’s Inter-Fraternity Council wasn’t immediately returned.

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