A new lawsuit alleges that a 20-year-old FSU fraternity member was struck so hard in the face that he suffers from a “dead area in his brain” that will affect him for the rest of his life.
Miami attorneys David Bianchi and Michael Levine of Stewart Tilghman Fox Bianchi & Cain filed the suit on behalf of Florida State University student Nicholas Mauricio in Leon County Circuit Court on Wednesday.
Jonathan Pierce, a spokesman for the national fraternity in Indianapolis, told the Tallahassee Democrat that there would be no comment until Alpha Epsilon Pi International reviews the suit filed by Bianchi and Levine.
The suit alleges that in April, Oliver Walker, also 20, was picked to mete out the punishment to Mauricio in a longstanding Alpha Epsilon Pi “Scumbag of the Week” tradition orchestrated by the chapter’s leadership.
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Mauricio, the suit says, was told he had been named “Scumbag of the Week.” In February, he filled out a questionnaire and submitted to an interview with an Alpha Epsilon Pi board member who was doing a membership audit over code of conduct violations during the fall 2017 semester.
Mauricio was officially named a brother of the fraternity in November 2017. As a result of the audit, the suit says, “Mauricio and others would not be selected to ‘rejoin’ the Alpha Epsilon Pi, Phi Tau chapter and that they would be considered ‘Alumnus in Bad Standing.’”
However, Mauricio was allowed to remain a resident of the frat house where the incident occurred.
During the April “Scumbag of the Week” punishment, Walker was told by members of the chapter’s leadership — seven of whom, along with the fraternity, are named defendants in the suit — to strike Mauricio in the face after he stepped forward in front of everyone in attendance.
Walker was not an FSU student and was not supposed to be at a chapter meeting, according to the suit.
As those in attendance cried out, “Hit him!” repeatedly, Walker delivered the blow to Mauricio’s face, “harder than he should have and harder than he intended,” the suit reads.
Mauricio suffered a skull fracture when he hit the ground unconscious, and he lost a tooth. “One or more” of the named defendants — Ira Sigman, Hunter Godfrey, Jason Peck, David Landess, Justin Friedman, Aidan Smyth and Michael Niles — took the injured student to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital and allegedly told healthcare workers Mauricio had fallen down the stairs while playing basketball outside on the fraternity’s deck.
Mauricio is no longer a student at FSU and suffers from “encephalomalacia, or a dead area in the brain” in the right frontal lobe “that affects his behavior, mood, attitude, and cognitive function,” the suit reads.
“There seems to be no end to the hazing that occurs at fraternities despite the passage of tougher laws and the warnings from universities” said David Bianchi and Michael Levine, the two attorneys who also represented the parents in a civil case of FSU student Andrew Coffey, who died from alcohol poisoning in November 2017 at the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity.
“This is yet another absurd tradition that AEPi has been carrying on for too long and no one in the leadership of the local or national fraternity cared enough to end it even though they knew it was going on,” Bianchi said in a statement. “Nicholas will suffer from his brain injury for the rest of his life and Oliver Walker, the fraternity brother who hit him, will most probably be going to jail for what he did.”
In April, FSU put the fraternity under disciplinary probation for the fall semester and then suspended it shortly after when the school learned there was a criminal investigation, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.
The suit filed Wednesday asks for a jury trial.