Judge bans alcohol, limits visitors at Eastern Michigan University fraternity

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

A Washtenaw County judge on Wednesday issued a preliminary injunction banning alcohol and capping the number of guests at the Delta Tau Delta fraternity at Eastern Michigan University.

The injunction was sought by City of Ypsilanti officials and Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit, who joined to file a lawsuit in January alleging the fraternity has created a public nuisance in its house or on nearby properties where 15 reported sexual assaults and other crimes fueled by "copious" amounts of alcohol consumption have been reported.

Savit said previously the lawsuit is filed under a law prohibiting public nuisances that has been used to intervene in drug houses and houses of prostitution.

Washtenaw County Judge Timothy Connors during a hearing seeking a preliminary injunction against Eastern Michigan University fraternity Delta Tau Delta on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022 via Zoom.

Circuit Court Judge Timothy Connors signed the request during the hearing, saying that he rarely has issued preliminary injunctions.

“The defendant has created and maintained an abatable nuisance conditions of the unlawful furnishing of alcohol to minors and environment conducive to sexual assaults that has engendered fear in the community,” Connors said.

"You have the responsibility to turn around the relationship your fraternity has in the community that you live in and the university that you are a part of,” Connors told Delta Tau Delta President Derek Koester.

"You have a big road ahead of you because of the actions from those behind you," Connors added.

Koester said the fraternity's core values are truth, faith, courage and power. He said the values are applicable to everyone in the fraternity as they are growing into men: Be strong mentally. Keep working on yourself. Being the bigger man in every situation.

"Be strong in every sense of life," Koester said. "Fight for yourself and fight for your values."

Todd Pierce-Ryan, director of the Economic Justice Unit in Savit's office, said during the hearing that the preliminary injunction was a "modest request aimed at protecting public safety."

Pierce-Ryan cited numerous incidents to support the preliminary injunction including two reported sexual assaults in 2021 linked to the fraternity and the fraternity house being a "hot spot for drinking." He pointed to two videos submitted to the court showing fraternity members allegedly participating in drinking games this month.

"These facts demonstrate that the fraternity created and maintained an environment with an increased danger for sexual assault," Pierce-Ryan said. "Alcohol is an enhancer of sexual aggression, it is a tool of sexual assault and makes it more likely the assailant will do it again in the future and it's used retroactively as an excuse to justify sexual assault."

During the hearing, Brian Morley, a Lansing-based attorney representing the fraternity, questioned legal and procedural issues in the filings and said one of the sexual assaults referenced in court records had "nothing to do with the fraternity."

After the hearing, Morley said he was "disappointed" by the judge's ruling. 

"I don't think there was a basis for it," said Morley, who has said previously the lawsuit is an indictment of the actions of a few students over several years. 

Savit and Ypsilanti officials noted in a recent court filing that there was a party planned for Saturday, “Delt’s Ski Lodge,” at the Delta Tau Delta headquarters on Lowell in Ypsilanti, although Morley noted during the hearing the party had been canceled.

EMU began a review Delta Tau Delta in September of last year that is ongoing, spokesman Walter Kraft said in an email.

A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for March 17.