News


Youth alcohol bill signed by Governor Perry
Criminal Convictions - July 8, 2010
Criminal Convictions - June 8, 2010
Press Release from 5/21/09 Arrests
Starkey Family Statement
County Jail Booking Photos
Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission 911 Lifeline Policy
Carson's Act
Youth alcohol bill signed by Governor Perry!

Its aim is to encourage young folks to seek medical help when needed.

Underage drinkers seeking medical help in an emergency will receive immunity from minor in possession and consumption of alcohol charges under a bill signed by the Governor this past weekend.

The measure written by Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, aims to encourage young people to seek medical help, especially in the case of potential alcohol poisoning. Watson said young people in such instances often are afraid they will find themselves charged with a crime for participating in underage drinking.

"This says, you are not going to get into trouble for doing the right thing," Watson said. Under the proposal, immunity will be granted only to the minor who is the first to seek medical assistance for the incapacitated person and they must stay with the person until help arrives. Watson's bill also includes mandatory punishment of individuals convicted of coercing others into consuming alcohol. Under his bill, judges must require people found guilty of coercing alcohol consumption to perform 20 to 40 hours of community service and to suspend their driver's license for 180 days.

By Patricia Kilday Hart
patti.hart@chron.com



CRIMINAL CONVICTIONS - July 8, 2010

Today, Adam Marszal (home owner & alcohol purchaser) and Russell Taylor (alcohol purchaser) have pleaded no contest to misdemeanor hazing. San Luis Obispo Judge Linda Hurst sentenced Adam Marszal to 30 days in jail and three years probation and Russell Taylor to 30 days in jail and three years probation. Both defendants were each ordered to perform 40 hours community service or complete two presentations to schools during the following year concerning alcohol awareness and hazing.

These two hazing convictions follow the hazing convictions of Mr. Ibrahim and Mr. Ellis one month earlier. We feel the four hazing convictions send a strong message that hazing must stop.

JULIA’S STATEMENT

We would like to thank the San Luis Obispo police and prosecutors for achieving justice in the death of our son, Carson Starkey. Throughout this difficult process, they have acted with professionalism, compassion and the commitment to achieve positive change.

It has been a long 19 months; and although this chapter of the criminal process is closing, the pain of losing my son Carson will never go away. I will always miss him: his humor, his kindness for others, his friendship and companionship, but mostly I will never again see his playful grin or receive one of his warm hugs. Our family is forever changed by the loss of our precious son.

Carson’s death exposed an illegal fraternity initiation practice that served no legitimate purpose. He was the victim of a crime committed under the false premise of judging personal worth. With this conviction today, your actions have been judged to be a crime that extinguished a bright star whom you sought to be a “brother”.

Now, you must judge yourself and your actions. Your redemption can occur only if you commit yourself to making certain that this never happens again. No other family should endure the loss and pain that we have experienced.

We will continue our mission to eliminate hazing and reform the society of fraternities that have lost their way. We will remain determined to channel this personal tragedy into positive change.


SCOTT’S STATEMENT

Mr. Marszal and Mr. Taylor

As I speak to you today I also address many other individuals, including your organizations leadership and the 20 plus SAE members in the garage that night.

Your decisions, actions, and failures let my son down, you each took a part in his death. The traditional SAE hazing ritual hosted at Mr. Marszal’s home was unnecessary, irresponsible, and unsupervised. Providing excessive amounts of alcohol, including deadly Everclear, and then chanting, “puke and rally” is no way to promote true brotherhood. Developing the lasting bond of brotherhood is not a game and alcohol is not a toy. Your ridiculous methods prove that neither you, nor your organization, take brotherhood seriously.

Pressuring someone through psychological, emotional, or physical means is wrong. When this happens with children we call it bullying, in young adults it is known as hazing, and in adults the term is abuse. Your acts of hazing caused Carson to die. Today your hazing convictions, along with Mr. Ibrahim’s and Mr. Ellis’ before you, demonstrate that hazing is not only morally, ethically, and spiritually wrong – it is also illegal.

I miss Carson every day and have come to realize that emptiness will never go away. Carson, Hayden, Julia, and I have always been a very close family; four was a special number to us. Although we are now three, we continue to live our lives with Carson. While today’s convictions bring an end to the criminal chapter, our family has identified many other areas of focus. Today we move forward committed to stop hazing, create cultural change, and promote the moral obligation to help others. We will use all means necessary to assure success. We will not tire nor will we fail.

Someday you may be fathers and I pray you never have to suffer the loss of a child. I hope you will eventually understand how unnecessary this tragedy was. Realize what you did was wrong, accept it, and move forward. Participating in and encouraging wrong behavior while telling yourself “that’s how it’s always been done” or “I had to do that” is a farce. Failure to recognize right from wrong and not standing up for what is right makes you nothing more than a common follower.

I challenge you to admit and accept your wrongdoing.

I challenge you to join the movement to expose hazing and help change the culture in which it thrives.

I challenge you to step forward and be leaders. Leave here today with the courage, character, and commitment to set an example for what is right.
On the second anniversary of Carson Starkey’s death, TABC reminds Texans about the continued dangers of alcohol poisoning.

Amid nationwide concerns about the safety of caffeinated malt beverages, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) reminds parents, young adults and teenagers of the dangers of alcohol poisoning. When inexperienced drinkers consume high-alcohol-content beverages in large quantities, alcohol overdose is a serious risk, with or without the involvement of stimulants.

Today is the second anniversary of Austinite Carson Starkey's death from alcohol poisoning following a fraternity hazing ritual at Cal Poly State University in California. According to the police investigation, he was given miscellaneous alcoholic beverages to consume in a short amount of time, including a fifth of rum, Sparks alcoholic energy drinks and a bottle of Everclear. Within 20 minutes, he collapsed and became unresponsive. Ultimately, his blood alcohol content at the time of death was between .39% and .447% -- over four times the legal limit for driving in Texas and California.

Despite the fact that he had lost consciousness and was showing multiple signs of alcohol poisoning, his fraternity brothers didn't seek help until it was too late. Based on their actions that night, it was clear the young men hesitated to seek help in part because they were afraid of getting into trouble. Ironically, their hesitation led to even more serious consequences, including jail time for four members of the fraternity who have since pleaded no contest to misdemeanor hazing.

One year ago today, TABC announced the Carson Starkey Medical / Good Samaritan Amnesty policy in an attempt to prevent future deaths from alcohol poisoning.

"It is the policy of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission that our agents will not cite minors for the illegal possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages if an individual seeks assistance because of a medical emergency or because a person has been a victim of sexual assault or other violent crime."

On December 2, 2009, TABC Administrator Alan Steen said, "It is our hope that publicizing this policy will encourage young people to call 911 if a friend is in danger from alcohol poisoning or any other medical emergency. We don't want any life to be lost because someone is afraid of getting in trouble for underage drinking."

“Our family is grateful for all the work TABC has accomplished in memory of our son Carson,” says Julia Starkey. “One of our goals is to educate students and their parents about the dangers of alcohol poisoning and hazing. TABC's amnesty policy helps us to spread that message and to reinforce our beliefs that individuals have a moral obligation to help others in need, no matter the consequences.” Starkey continued, “This policy encourages young people to do the right thing, but I believe it would be much more effective if it applied to all Texas law enforcement agencies. Within the last year, four states have enacted limited immunity laws that protect minors who call 911 to report alcohol poisoning, including New Jersey, Utah, Colorado and California. Our hope is that Texas follows their lead.”

Steen says, "As I said a year ago, for a young person, nothing could be worse than living with the memory of a friend who died because you were afraid to make a phone call. I urge young people to be a good friend. Know the signs of alcohol poisoning. Don't leave an unconscious person alone, and don't be afraid to call 911."

Signs of Alcohol Poisoning:
Person cannot be roused / unconscious
Person appears confused or in a stupor
No response to pinching the skin
Vomiting while sleeping
Seizures
Slow breathing (fewer than 8 breaths per minute)
Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths)
Low body temperature (hypothermia), bluish skin color, paleness

Don't wait for all of these symptoms to be present before you seek help!

For more information on TABC’s amnesty policy and on alcohol poisoning, please visit TABC's website and download an informational brochure.

Carson Starkey was born in Austin, Texas on April 17, 1990, and he was a third generation graduate of Stephen F. Austin High School in Austin, Texas. For more information on Carson's life, and the non-profit association created in his name, visit WithCarson.org.

Unfortunately, Carson’s story is not unique. To read about more underage youth who have died from alcohol-related emergencies, or for more information about alcohol poisoning, binge drinking, hazing and medical amnesty, visit the website for The Gordie Center for Alcohol & Substance Education at the University of Virginia (formerly known as the Gordie Foundation).

Contact: Carolyn Beck, Director of Communications, 512-206-3347
CRIMINAL CONVICTIONS - June 8, 2010

Today, after appealing all the way to the California Supreme Court, Haithem Ibrahim (big brother) and Zacary Ellis (pledge educator) have plead no contest to misdemeanor hazing. San Luis Obispo Judge Michael Duffy sentenced Haithem Ibrahim to 45 days in jail and Zacary Ellis to 120 days in jail. We were given the opportunity to address the court and defendants - please see our statements below.

Mr. Ibrahim and his attorney both personally expressed their sympathy to us. Mr. Ellis nor his attorney said anything.

Defendants Russell Taylor and Adam Marszal are still facing hazing and providing alcohol charges. The trial setting date for these two cases is July 1st.
JULIA'S STATEMENT

There are not enough words to express how I felt Dec, 2nd, the day we got the unthinkable call from the SLO Coroner that changed our lives forever. We lost our son. Hayden lost his only brother and best friend. It is difficult for me to express how I feel today. It is indescribable. Your foolish and reckless behavior has caused our hearts to have a permanent hole, a void that will never be filled. Our family was so very close, we did everything together. Unfortunately, nothing that happens here today will bring Carson back. Our family has forever been changed by the loss of our loving son and brother. Carson’s death was so senseless and easily avoidable.

Carson was 18 years old and 2000 miles from home. He chose an out of state college without any friends, as he wanted to expand his horizons and meet new and interesting people. When Carson told us he wanted to join your fraternity, I remember being surprised as he had said he wouldn't join one. But, then I said to his Dad that at least we could be comforted that he had a group of friends to take care of him, well I was wrong. 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.

My hope is that you will honor Carson by learning from his tragic death and help spread the message that hazing is wrong and needs to stop! Helping one another is the right thing to do, even if there are consequences to face. I hope these hazing convictions will make a statement for change so other families will not have to endure the pain that we have endured and will have for years to come. I am asking you today to do the right thing, spread this message, implement change and make a difference with your life and others.


SCOTT'S STATEMENT

We would like to gratefully thank the District Attorney’s Office and Police Department. We sincerely appreciate all their efforts to see justice served. Our family is committed to doing everything we can to help change the culture, behavior, and traditions that led to Carson’s death. We are confident the precedent being set here today is one of the many steps necessary to create positive change.

Mr. Ibrahim and Mr. Ellis

As I address you today my words are also directed to all the individuals involved in Carson’s death.

Carson was my son but also my good friend. He and I shared a special bond.
I will have to suffer this loss for the rest of my Earthly life.

In some way you failed him.
Your culture failed him.
Your organization failed him.
Your failed attempts at brotherhood failed him.

There have been countless lives affected by this tragedy, some we are not even aware of. I pray you will be able to grow from this experience and find ways to use your lives to help stop such irresponsible and immature behavior that hides behind so called tradition. I hope you realize how senseless and easily preventable Carson’s death was.

One day you may be fathers. If so, please keep Carson alive in your hearts as you love and raise your own children.

Today there is no turning back.

Stand up and accept your responsibility.

Make something good out of this tragedy.
PRESS RELEASE - ARRESTS - STATEMENT - PHOTOS

05/21/09 1:00 PM

City of San Luis Obispo
Police Department
1042 Walnut
SLO, CA 93401
(805) 781-7317
Any further questions should be referred to the Press Information Officer. Anonymous information may be referred to Crime Stopper @ (805) 549-STOP
Prepared by: Captain Dan Blanke
DR#: 081202009

WHAT: ARRESTS IN HAZING DEATH OF CARSON STARKEY (PRESS UPDATE #4)
WHERE: Hazing Occurred at 551 Highland Drive
WHEN: Death Occurred on December 2, 2008
VICTIM: Carson Leonard STARKEY - 18 years of age (D.O.B. 04-17-90) Austin, TX

Suspects Arrested on the Morning of May 21, 2009
SUSPECTS: COUNTY JAIL BOOKING PHOTOS AT BOTTOM OF PAGE
#1 – Haithem Muthana IBRAHIM 20 YOA from Lafayette, CA
#2 – Zacary Westen ELLIS 22 YOA from San Luis Obispo, CA
#3 – Russell Martin TAYLOR 22 YOA from Fresno, CA
#4 – Adam Edward MARSZAL 21 YOA from Carmichael, CA

This morning, investigators from the San Luis Obispo Police Department arrested individuals in connection with the death of Carson STARKEY, which occurred on December 2, 2008, as the result of a fraternity hazing ritual. At the conclusion of our investigation, the San Luis Obispo District Attorney filed criminal charges against the suspects and warrants were obtained for their arrest. All four individuals surrendered themselves this morning pursuant to the warrants and posted bail.

The individuals being charged are: COUNTY JAIL BOOKING PHOTOS AT BOTTOM OF PAGE

Haithem IBRAHIM – Felony violation of Hazing Causing Death or Great Bodily Injury [Penal
Code 245.6(D)] and Misdemeanor violation of Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor Causing Death or
Great Bodily Injury [Business and Professions Code 25658(C)]

Zacary ELLIS – Felony violation of Hazing Causing Death or Great Bodily Injury [Penal Code
245.6(D)] and Misdemeanor violation of Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor Causing Death or Great
Bodily Injury [Business and Professions Code 25658(C)]

Russell TAYLOR – Misdemeanor violation of Hazing Causing Death or Great Bodily Injury
[Penal Code 245.6(D)] and Misdemeanor violation of Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor Causing
Death or Great Bodily Injury [Business and Professions Code 25658(C)]

Adam MARSZAL – Misdemeanor violation of Hazing Causing Death or Great Bodily Injury
[Penal Code 245.6(D)] and Misdemeanor violation of Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor Causing
Death or Great Bodily Injury [Business and Professions Code 25658(C)]

Bail for the felony charges is $50,000 and for the misdemeanor charges is $10,000. If convicted, the suspects face up to a year in County Jail for the misdemeanors, and up to 3 years in State prison for the felonies.

The following is a summary of the investigation and the events that led to the arrests: Carson STARKEY came to Cal Poly from Austin, Texas as a freshman in September 2008 and he lived in a dormitory on-campus. In October 2008, Carson began the pledge process to become a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) Fraternity. The week of November 30 to December 6, 2008, was designated as “Big Bro Week,” during which the pledges, or “Little Brothers,” were to be connected with active SAE members, their “Big Brothers.” The night of December 1, 2008 was referred to as “Brown Bag Night” - an annual pledge event - during which Big Brothers reveal their identity to the pledges by providing each pledge with a brown bag containing large quantities of alcoholic beverages, along with written clues about the identity of their Big Brother. Haithem IBRAHIM was Carson STARKEY’s Big Brother. The investigation revealed that on the night of the brown bag ritual, Haithem IBRAHIM, Russell TAYLOR, and Adam MARSZAL, all active SAE members, selected and purchased large quantities of alcohol from two stores in San Luis Obispo for the pledges to consume. IBRAHIM chose the alcoholic beverages for Carson STARKEY and placed them in Carson’s brown bag. Because IBRAHIM was not 21, Russell TAYLOR made the actual purchase of the alcohol provided to Carson STARKEY. At about 9:10 PM, while active SAE members were purchasing alcohol and placing it into bags, the pledges were instructed to meet in a Cal Poly parking lot. All 17 SAE pledges responded. All were under 21 years of age. The pledges were instructed to go to 551 Highland Drive and gather in the garage of the home, where the room was prepared for the brown bag ritual. The couches were covered with tarps; a bucket to collect vomit was placed in the center of the floor; the pledges were told to sit around the bucket in a circle; and a brown bag containing the alcoholic beverages was placed in front of each of the 17 pledges. Investigators confirmed that Carson had not consumed any alcohol prior going to the house. Zacary ELLIS, the SAE Pledge Educator, then instructed the pledges to consume the contents of their bags by midnight and not to leave the garage, which gave them about 1 ½ hours to complete the task. In addition to the alcohol contained in each pledge’s bag, a bottle of 151 proof Everclear liquor was provided to the pledges. Everclear contains an extremely high alcohol content of 75%, about twice the alcohol content of most other hard liquors. While the pledges were drinking, various SAE members were present in the garage. The investigation revealed that Carson STARKEY drank alcohol from his brown bag, as well as from the Everclear bottle. At some point, Carson became unresponsive. Several SAE members
took Carson out of the garage and put him in a vehicle to take him to a hospital, removing Carson’s pledge pin and pledge book in the process in order to prevent Carson from being associated with the fraternity. As they started driving, Carson began to vomit, so they returned to the house. SAE members put him to bed and checked on him until approximately 2:00 AM on December 2, 2008, when the SAE members went to bed. A few hours later, Carson was found unresponsive and an SAE member called 9-1-1 and began CPR. Prior to the arrival of fire and police personnel, SAE members woke the remaining pledges and told them to leave. Carson STARKEY was taken by ambulance to Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

The Police Department immediately launched an investigation, and despite the fact that the residents of 551 Highland were not truthful with investigators about the circumstances leading to Carson’s death, investigators were able to determine that his death was directly related to a Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) Fraternity hazing event. An autopsy revealed that the cause of Carson STARKEY’s death was respiratory arrest due to acute ethanol toxicity. Analyses of Carson’s blood, vitreous humor, and urine revealed a blood alcohol content ranging from .39% to .447%. It was also determined that no marijuana or drugs were present in Carson STARKEY’S system. The investigation into Carson’s death was very extensive and detailed, and the San Luis Obispo Police Department was assisted by investigators from the Cal Poly University Police Department, the County Sheriff’s Department, the County District Attorney’s Office, and the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Investigators conducted interviews with 65 people; served eight search warrants at homes of SAE members; and seized evidence that included 55 computer drives, 27 cellular telephones, and 24 cameras, all of which required forensic analysis. The investigation revealed that Carson STARKEY died as a result of a hazing ritual conducted as a condition of membership in the SAE Fraternity. The four individuals being charged in his death were determined to be the most directly responsible for the acts which led to Carson’s death – purchasing and providing the alcohol and directing the pledges in the drinking ritual. Hazing is a crime in California, and when hazing results in a death, it is a felony. This investigation has exposed a ritual that was as disturbing as it was deadly; one in which young men were required to drink extreme amounts of alcohol in a very short period of time, and where steps were taken to protect the furniture and floor from vomit that the organizers knew would result. Despite being illegal and against formal Greek organization policies, dangerous hazing rituals remain part of the culture of certain groups; a culture that claims to promote leadership and value friendship, but which fails to protect young and impressionable recruits who simply want to belong. Carson’s death was the result of a crime and it was entirely preventable. Tragically, his death was not the first resulting from a fraternity hazing ritual, and unless the Greeks change their culture in a fundamental and meaningful way, it will not be the last.

I now will read a statement prepared by Carson’s parents. They do not wish to speak with the press about their son’s death, but they asked me to read this statement on their behalf.

FAMILY STATEMENT

We deeply appreciate the efforts by the San Luis Obispo police and prosecutors to seek justice for the death of our beloved son and brother.

Only someone else who has lost a child can begin to comprehend our family's pain and sorrow. Our grief is deepened by the fact that Carson's death was not due to a natural cause like a disease or illness. Carson was an excellent student who aspired to be an architect but also, unfortunately, aspired to become a fraternity member, and he participated in a dangerous fraternity ritual during which he was compelled to drink a fatal amount of alcohol. His death was not caused by "voluntarily" drinking too much, and anyone who might suggest otherwise is misinformed.

If Carson or our family had any clue that fraternity initiations were dangerous we would never have supported his consideration to join. We are certain his good judgment would have led him to the same conclusion. But it is only since Carson’s death that we have learned that many young people are hurt or killed as a result of long-standing, dangerous pledging rituals that fraternities refuse to abolish or properly supervise in order to keep students safe.

We will honor Carson and other families by doing everything we can to end dangerous misconduct by fraternities and their members. So, today, we express our gratitude to the police and prosecutors for understanding our loss and assisting us in this first of many steps towards achieving change and justice.

The Starkey Family
COUNTY JAIL BOOKING PHOTOS
Adam Edward Marszal
Haithem Muthana Ibrahim
Zacary Westen Ellis
Russell Martin Taylor
TABC's CARSON STARKEY 911 LIFELINE POLICY

For Immediate Release: December 2, 2009

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) has established a new Medical / Good Samaritan policy in an attempt to prevent future deaths from alcohol poisoning.

"It is the policy of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission that our agents will not cite minors for the illegal possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages if an individual seeks assistance because of a medical emergency or because a person has been a victim of sexual assault or other violent crime."

TABC Administrator Alan Steen says, "It is our hope that publicizing this policy will encourage young people to call 911 if a friend is in danger from alcohol poisoning or any other medical emergency. We don't want any life to be lost because someone is afraid of getting in trouble for underage drinking. For that reason, I encourage other law enforcement agencies to establish similar policies."

TABC makes this announcement today, December 2, 2009, in remembrance of Austinite Carson Starkey. Today is the one-year anniversary of Carson's death from alcohol poisoning following a fraternity hazing ritual at Cal Poly StateUniversity in San Luis Obispo, California. Carson was 18-years-old, a recent graduate of Stephen F. Austin High School, finishing his first semester of college. According to the police investigation, he was instructed to drink a bottle of Everclear. He lost consciousness, showing multiple signs of alcohol poisoning, but his fraternity brothers didn't seek help until it was too late. Ultimately, his blood alcohol content at the time of death was between .39% and .447% -- over four times the legal limit for driving in Texas and California..

Steen continued, "Know the signs of alcohol poisoning. For a young person, nothing could be worse than living with the memory of a friend who died because you were afraid to make a phone call. I urge young people to be a good friend. Don't leave an unconscious person alone, and don't be afraid to call 911."

Signs of Alcohol Poisoning:
* Person cannot be roused / unconscious
* Person appears confused or in a stupor
* No response to pinching the skin
* Vomiting while sleeping
* Seizures
* Slow breathing (fewer than 8 breaths per minute)
* Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths)
* Low body temperature (hypothermia), bluish skin color, paleness

Don't wait for all of these symptoms to be present before you seek help!

Carson Starkey was born in Austin, Texas on April 17, 1990, and he was a third generation graduate of Stephen F. Austin High School in Austin, Texas. For more information on Carson's life, and the non-profit association created in his name, visit www.withcarson.com.

For more information on the signs of alcohol poisoning, or to download an information flier, please click here.

Contact: Carolyn Beck, Director of Communications, 512-206-3347
CARSON'S ACT

The Carson Starkey Alcohol Awareness and Education Act was signed into law by Governor Perry on Friday June 19, 2009. This bill originated in the Texas Senate, authored by Senator Kirk Watson. The bill was sponsored in the House by Representative Rob Eissler. The Carson Starkey Act permanently puts education about the dangers, causes, consequences, signs, symptoms, and treatment of alcohol poisoning and binge drinking in the curriculum of Texas public schools.Senator Watson presented the Carson Starkey Act at a ceremony in the Senate chamber on Thursday September 27, 2009. Photos here, password is password.


Please voice your heartfelt thanks to those directly involved in making this possible.

Senator Kirk Watson (Senate sponsor) kirk.watson@senate.state.tx.us
Senator Florence Shapiro (Senate Education Chair & co-sponsor) florence.shapiro@senate.state.tx.us
Representative Rob Eissler (House Education Chair & sponsor) rob.eissler@house.state.tx.us