Washtenaw County Officials Sue to Stop EMU Fraternity’s Parties Due to Sexual Assault Reports

You are currently viewing Washtenaw County Officials Sue to Stop EMU Fraternity’s Parties Due to Sexual Assault Reports

Washtenaw County officials are suing the Delta Tau Delta fraternity at Eastern Michigan University, saying the group has continued to throw dangerous alcohol-fueled parties, despite 15 reported sexual assaults in recent years connected to the Greek Life entity at such gatherings.

The Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office and the city of Ypsilanti filed a lawsuit in early January asking the Washtenaw County Trial Court to declare the fraternity a public nuisance and halt parties. Meanwhile, the fraternity requested the matter be dismissed and denied a claim of dangerous conditions in a response filed this month.

The officials and the fraternity are slated to go head-to-head on the issue, starting with a motion hearing Wednesday on a government request for a preliminary injunction on the fraternity in the short term.

The “staggering number of sexual assaults” connected to Delta Tau Delta since 2014 continued into this school year and are no accident, Chief Washtenaw County Assistant Prosecutor Victoria Burton-Harris said in an email.

“The parties must stop,” she said. “The underage drinking must stop. And the culture of complicity must end. We intend to do everything in our power to abate the conditions that have led to so many sexual assaults, so that not one more victim is harmed.”

Delta Tau Delta’s Lansing-based attorney Brian Morley said it’s an “impermissible leap” to say criminal acts by certain drunk college kids mean an entire fraternity they were tied to is a danger to society.

He doesn’t think bad acts at a fraternity are OK but also doesn’t think it’s appropriate “blaming an organization for the prior bad acts of a finite number of individuals,” he said.

He also said it’s too early in the process to say with certainty, but he believes there could be factual errors with how prosecutors presented the incident from this school year.

The local lawsuit comes amid a Free Press investigation into a slew of sexual assaults reported at the school since 2014, criminal charges for multiple former students — including a number of Greek Life members — and federal lawsuits by 24 people against EMU and several Greek Life entities.

Multiple of those criminally charged are former members of Delta Tau Delta and graduates of the school. Two former members are accused of joint gang rapes of multiple women and another member criminally charged is also accused, in the federal lawsuits, of assaults on more than one woman. The local lawsuit does not reference the men’s names but appears to reference their cases.

Delta Tau Delta in December agreed to a settlement in the federal cases with eight women, one of whom had not yet joined the cases, said the women’s attorney, Todd Flood. Details of the settlement were not released.

Delta Tau Delta also is under a review process by the school; another fraternity tied up in the matter, Alpha Sigma Phi, broke with the school instead of undergoing the review, citing concerns with a “kangaroo court.”

The lawsuit filed this year by Washtenaw County officials alleges:

  • That Delta Tau Delta members attempted to cover up sexual assaults and protected serial predators; failed to report or stop numerous assaults they witnessed, and intimidated and threatened victims at times to keep them from coming forward.
  • That 12 of the 15 reported sexual assaults took place on fraternity property or fraternity-associated property, such as an annex.
  • That all but one of the sexual assaults occurred following fraternity-sponsored parties, and that one involved a Delta Tau Delta member and a sorority event. Also, all the incidents involved excessive alcohol consumption.

The reported assaults and harassment included:

  • A fall 2021 incident in which an 18-year-old was reported to have been repeatedly sexually assaulted in a parking lot after an alcohol-fueled party at the fraternity house.
  •  At least four sexual assaults by members in which fellow members were witnesses and failed to intervene.
  • A Jan. 16, 2015, reported sexual assault by an 18-year-old fraternity brother on an 18-year-old woman in an EMU dorm room after alcohol was consumed at a fraternity annex gathering. A different fraternity brother later went to the woman’s dorm room and told her she would ruin her attacker’s future if she reported it, officials said in the lawsuit.
  • A 17-year-old fraternity brother’s physical assault on a 19-year-old woman in 2015 after she said she would tell people about an incident the night before, after a party, in which a different brother, 20, sent her unsolicited photos of his genitals.
  •  A 19-year-old Delta Tau Delta member’s sexual harassment, physical assault, indecent exposure, and urination on a 19-year-old woman on a bus after a Dec. 9, 2016, sorority formal and another fraternity brother witnessed it and failed to intervene.

Let Us Help. Contact Us Today.