BROCKPORT, N.Y. (AP) — Members of an unrecognized fraternity at a state college tortured a rat as part of illegal hazing that occurred inside the group's house, according to police who announced charges against nine men on Thursday.
The men, including six current and three former students at the College at Brockport, were part of an organization known as the Delts, according to the college. The organization operated as a fraternity despite the fact that its charter was revoked by the Delta Sigma Phi national fraternity in 2001.
The organization had been on law enforcement's radar for years because of complaints from students and community members, said University Police Chief Dan Vasile. But it wasn't until two pledges came forward that charges could be filed, investigators said. Other victims may have been too intimidated to speak up, they said.
"They basically tortured (a) rat as an example of what would happen if somebody came forward or tried to leave the organization," Brockport Police Lt. Mark Cuzzupoli said at a news conference with campus police.
"A hammer was used in one instance and a fist in another," Cuzzupoli said. "It's nasty. It's despicable. It's disgusting."
Officers executed a search warrant last week at the filthy house bordering the campus, located 15 miles (24 kilometers) west of Rochester.
The men face various misdemeanor counts of hazing, criminal nuisance, assault and alcohol-related unlawfully dealing with a child. One of the men was charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance and two with animal cruelty.
In a statement, the college said it had done "everything in its authority to prohibit the continued, unrecognized activity of this collection of individuals."
"We regularly educate and warn students and their parents of the dangers associated with such unrecognized groups and will continue to do so," the statement said. "We have zero tolerance for this group's behavior."
Authorities said they could not comment on the nature or extent of the hazing that allegedly occurred until after Friday's court appearance.