Order sought to halt parties, alcohol use at Delta Tau Delta at EMU

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

A court order is being sought to temporarily stop Eastern Michigan University fraternity Delta Tau Delta from throwing parties or possessing alcohol following numerous claims of sexual assault by some members. 

A Washtenaw County judge on Wednesday is expected to consider whether to issue a preliminary injunction that would bar the EMU chapter of the fraternity from having alcohol on its property and allow no more than five guests at a time.

The joint request was filed last week in Washtenaw County's 22nd Circuit Court by the City of Ypsilanti and the Washtenaw County Prosecutor's Office. 

Delta Tau Delta, along with Alpha Sigma Phi and Theta Chi fraternities, has been in the limelight at EMU following a federal lawsuit alleging a series of sexual assaults linked to the Greek organizations.

Though Delta Tau Delta reached a settlement with 10 women in the lawsuit, Ypsilanti officials and Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit said authorities are trying to address underlying conditions at the house and to get parties, and sexual assaults, to stop.

"This case is about stopping Defendant Delta Fraternity’s dangerous public nuisance activities," according to the motion.

"Even after the arrests of some Delta Tau Delta fraternity members, the settling of a federal civil lawsuit with ten women alleging sexual assaults and extensive press coverage, Defendant Delta Fraternity is continuing to host parties and to openly solicit guests to attend their parties," it reads.

The filing noted an upcoming party planned for Saturday, “Delt’s Ski Lodge,” to be held at the Delta Tau Delta headquarters on Lowell in Ypsilanti.

Brian Morley, a Lansing-based attorney representing the fraternity, said the preliminary injunction request isn't necessary.

"It's too bad it was filed," said Morley. "I hope it doesn't get granted. The whole lawsuit is an indictment of the actions of a couple of kids over the past several years."

The fraternity in a response to the lawsuit earlier this month asked a judge to dismiss the case in the Greek organization's favor and award attorney fees and costs.

The federal lawsuit was filed last year against the local and national chapters of Delta Tau Delta, along with national and local chapters of the Alpha Sigma Phi and Theta Chi fraternities, the Sigma Kappa sorority, EMU and several school officials. The suit, which included a total of 24 people, alleged numerous rapes in fraternity houses and other off-campus sites that allegedly were covered up by university officials.

Delta Tau Delta's local and national chapters reached a settlement in December with 10 women, mostly former EMU students identified in court records as Jane Does, and the fraternity was dismissed from the case. 

Another 13 women and one man, who did not bring claims against the fraternity, are pursuing claims against the other defendants. Those include the national and local chapters of the Alpha Sigma Phi and Theta Chi fraternities, the Sigma Kappa sorority and EMU and several school officials.

Last year, EMU student Morgan Werner came forward last year to share her claims of being sexually assaulted at the Delta Tau Delta house with The Detroit News.

The Washtenaw County Prosecutor's Office and the city earlier this year asked a judge to order Delta Tau Delta to temporarily halt all parties and complete sexual assault and alcohol awareness training in the wake of more than a dozen sexual assaults officials say are tied to the organization, leading to Wednesday's hearing.

Parties involving excessive drinking by underage patrons are among reoccurring themes that have emerged in numerous sexual assault complaints involving Delta Tau Delta, according to Christina Hines, the first assistant prosecutor heading up special victims prosecutions in the Washtenaw County Prosecutor's Office. Many of the alleged assaults occurred in the presence of Delta Tau Delta members or others who failed to intervene, Hines wrote in an affidavit filed with last week's preliminary injunction request.

"Alcohol and partying are not the only cause of sexual assault," wrote Hines. "Power imbalances and sexual violence have been normalized, excused, and sometimes encouraged by the DTD fraternity. Furthermore, perpetrators may intentionally drink so they may argue that their diminished capacity explains the behavior — that was actually planned and meticulously carried out."

Hines noted a large volume of calls and investigations regarding sexual assault, leading to a significant amount of time invested in the cases by the prosecutor's office, along with the university and city police departments. 

Some groups, she wrote, have argued for the DTD fraternity to be shut down because it "has a reputation for sexually assaulting and sexually harassing" and "presents a risk to the public," Hines wrote.  

EMU is conducting a review of Delta Tau Delta, and students have said they are planning a protest and a meeting with administrators to demand the university shut down Delta Tau Delta. 

EMU spokesman Walter Kraft said a review of the fraternity is ongoing.

He also said that the university, "shares the concerns of the Washtenaw County Prosecutor's Office."