Penn State

Fraternity seeks gag order in KDR hazing lawsuit

Former Kappa Delta Rho fraternity house on Prospect Avenue in State College.
Former Kappa Delta Rho fraternity house on Prospect Avenue in State College. CDT file photo

One of the defendants in the lawsuit brought by a Penn State student who says he was hazed wants to stop the man from publishing information about the case.

The National Fraternity of Kappa Delta Rho filed papers in Philadelphia last week asking for a protective order.

James Vivenzio, 21, is suing Penn State, KDR’s national organization and its local Zeta chapter, the university’s Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic Association, charging negligence, battery, furnishing alcohol to a minor, serving a visibly intoxicated person, false imprisonment and conversion of thousands of dollars in dining plan funds.

Fraternity attorneys wrote that they wanted an order “prohibiting...Vivenzio from posting pre-trial discovery and discovery responses, including, but not limited to, requests for the production of documents and any responses thereto (including any documents) ... on the website, or any other website, or in any way publicly disseminating any pre-trial discovery to non-parties or those not retained for services as it relates to the litigation of this matter.”

Vivenzio’s attorney, Aaron Freiwald, launched the website on the day the lawsuit was filed. It posts information about Vivenzio’s case and encourages people to share their stories about hazing incidents.

“The documents sought by plaintiff contain the personal and private information of numerous former and current students throughout the country, and, subject to a relevance objection, include the private and confidential information relating to KDR National’s rituals, customs and traditions,” the defense wrote.

Vivenzio is a whistleblower who in January told State College police about activities at the Zeta chapter, including illicit information and photographs published on a private Facebook page.

His lawsuit, filed in June, included allegations of “mentally abusive late-night line-ups that featured force-feeding bucketfuls of liquor mixed with urine, vomit, hot sauce” and more, gladiator-style games that led to “significant bodily injuries,” swilling hard liquor to the point of vomiting, and serving as forced labor around the Prospect Avenue chapter house and for older members.

The national organization has expelled 38 Penn State members. The chapter is on suspension both by its national body and the university.

KDR’s motion claimed concern for both students who are not litigants in the case, and female students or former students “the mere identify (sic) of whom would cause unfair embarrassment and humiliation.”

According to a press release from Freiwald included as an exhibit, upcoming discovery in the case will include deposition of a KDR national official on Aug. 19 and of Penn State’s director of the Office of Student Conduct, Danny Shaha, on Aug. 20.