The two men charged with the hazing death of Cal Poly freshman Carson Starkey pleaded no contest to reduced charges on June 8 in a San Luis Obispo courtroom.
Zacary Ellis, 23, was sentenced to 120 days in county jail, fined $1,000, and will be placed on probation for three years. Haithem Ibrahim, 21, was sentenced to 45 days in county jail, will be placed on probation for three years, and will have to help out with anti-hazing efforts at Cal Poly.
Ibrahim and Ellis had been charged with felony hazing in connection with the death of Starkey, an 18-year-old Cal Poly freshman from Austin, Texas, who died December 2008 from alcohol poisoning after attending a booze-fueled fraternity initiation. According to the autopsy report, Starkey had a blood alcohol level of more than five times the legal limit.
The pair could have been sentenced to five years in state prison if they’d been convicted of the original charges. All other charges were dropped.
Ibrahim was Starkey’s “big brother” at the fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon and was originally charged with one count of felony hazing and a misdemeanor count for permitting a minor to consume alcohol. Ellis was the fraternity’s pledge educator and coordinator of the event and was also charged with a felony and a misdemeanor
Both of Starkey’s parents spoke to the court before sentencing.
Julia Starkey said she was surprised when she her heard her son was going to join a fraternity, but was glad because she thought there would be a group of friends to take care of him.
“I was wrong,” said the tearful woman as she looked toward the two men. “Carson told us he was looking for brotherhood. Would you call the way you treated him brotherhood? Your actions and your choices to not help him that night are memories you and I will have to live with the rest of our lives.”
Members of the fraternity took Carson part of the way to the hospital the night he passed out. After he awoke and vomited, the frat brothers returned him to where the hazing had taken place. He died alone a few hours later.
“I will have to suffer this loss for the rest of my Earthly life,” said Scott Starkey. “In some way, you failed him, your culture failed him, your organization failed him, and your failed attempts at brotherhood failed him.”
When asked by the judge if the defendants had anything to say, Ibrahim said his prayers go out to the Starkey family and that he was “deeply sympathetic” for Starkey’s loss.
The Starkey family is suing Ibrahim and Ellis, as well as seven other fraternity members, in civil court.
Two other fraternity members, Adam Marszel and Russell Taylor, are being charged with misdemeanor hazing and are scheduled to appear in court July 1. Both have pled not guilty.