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Southern Tier

Cornell fraternity hazing trial wraps up

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Cornell fraternity hazing trial wraps up
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Was it a hazing or just too much partying that led to the death of a 19-year-old Cornell student? Three fraternity pledges are on trial after a frat brother dies from alcohol poisoning. The case is now in the hands of a judge. Our Tamara Lindstrom has more from the Ithaca newsroom.

ITHACA, N.Y. -- A night of fun and games or a reckless act of illegal hazing? Attorneys argue over exactly what happened the night before George Desdunes was found dead on a couch in the library of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house.

The 19-year-old had a blood alcohol level of more than .3 percent and had stopped breathing.

Now three former pledges, Ben Mann, Edward Williams and Max Haskin, are charged with first degree hazing and unlawfully dealing with a child for their roles in the Cornell student's death.

Desdunes and another frat brother were taken to an apartment in February of 2011, tied up and quizzed, given alcohol and candy and made to do exercises in what was considered a fraternity tradition.

Witnesses said he passed out while standing up and was later taken back to the SAE house and left on the couch.

After three days of testimony from witnesses, many of them frat brothers, attorneys presented their closing arguments Thursday.

Defense attorneys blamed Desdunes for his death, saying that he voluntarily took part in the mock kidnapping, that he had walking pneumonia at the time and had consumed copious amounts of alcohol earlier in the evening. One attorney described the ritual as having "no funnel, just fun."

The prosecution disputed the amount of alcohol Desdunes had consumed before the kidnapping and argued that the pledges should have called for help before it was too late.

The judge did not give a timeline for her decision, but said there won't be any undue delays.

The Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity is also named as a defendant, but a representative did not show up for the trial.

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