It was an ordinary Saturday for the brothers of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity, as they hosted one of their weekly parties at their residence.
More than 200 persons crammed into the three-story, six-bedroom rowhome that sits at the 1800 block of North 16th Street Sept. 23.
But then, at 11:30 p.m., the house’s occupants and fellow partygoers received some unexpected guests – and those guests didn’t show up to party.
Serving a search and seizure warrant for narcotics, 20 officers from Temple Police and Central Narcotics surrounded the front and back entrances of the house.
The officers knocked on the door and announced themselves.
“No one would answer the door,” said Capt. Robert Lowell of Temple Police’s Investigations Unit.
So, the officers forcibly removed a piece of plywood that was tacked in front of the vestibule to gain access to the house, and began their search for benzodiaz (common forms are Xanax and Valium), an anti-anxiety drug and the date-rape drug, gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, also known as GHB.Police didn’t find the drugs, but what they did find was persons under the age of 21 consuming alcohol. Police said 220 persons were in attendance at the TKE house that night, and of that total, 179 were under 21.
While Temple Police did not disclose how many underage partygoers had consumed alcohol, all of the underage attendees were referred to the University Disciplinary Committee.
As a result, the UDC suspended the Sigma-Phi chapter of TKE Sept. 25, two days after the party. According to Assistant Dean for Judicial Affairs Andrea Caporale Seiss, TKE committed seven violations listed in the university’s Code of Conduct.
These weren’t the first violations for the fraternity.
“The organization has had a few previous incidents over the last couple years, none of them being this serious,”
Also Sept. 25, TKE received notice from its national headquarters that it had been suspended temporarily until the investigation is completed, said TKE President Paolo DeVito.
TKE Chief Executive Officer Kevin Mayeux said the national fraternity received “credible allegations that the chapter may have violated risk management guidelines related to alcohol consumption.”
For that offense, the fraternity suspended the chapter temporarily.Making matters worse for TKE was the condemning of its house Sept. 28, the product of a handful of city codes. The eight fraternity brothers living there were subsequently displaced.
Five days after the police search – but not as a result of it – the city’s department of Licenses and Inspections cited the property for violating city codes on plumbing, electrical, fire, zoning, property maintenance and licenses.The residents of 1846 N. 16th St. were given three hours to clear out of the house.
After that time, they would need to notify police in order to reenter the house, which had its locks changed by its landlord, according to DeVito.
Two weeks prior to TKE’s house being searched, two underage female students reported to Temple Police that they believed drinks they had been served at a TKE-hosted party may have been spiked with something other than alcohol.
According to Lowell, Temple Police took the complainants to Temple Hospital Sept. 10 for a series of tests, the day after the females attended TKE’s party. Test results indicated that one female had traces of GHB in her system, while the other female’s results came back with traces of Xanax.
“With that information, that’s how we applied for the search warrant,” Lowell said.
The female complainants later identified
19-year-old Aaron Schraeter as the TKE brother who allegedly served them alcohol the night of Sept. 9.
Schraeter, a sophomore in the Tyler School of Art, turned himself into Central Narcotics Sept. 29.
He was then charged with aggravated assault, reckless endangerment of another person and narcotics violations. Schraeter, who DeVito said has since been suspended from the university and awaits trial, has a hearing scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 10.
Schraeter, when contacted for comment, said he had been advised by his attorney not to speak about the case.
DeVito was hesitant to speak on behalf of Schraeter, but the TKE president defended his fraternity brother and said he felt Schraeter “was innocent.”
“It’s unfortunate that this crime was committed,” DeVito said. “I don’t believe that it was a member of my fraternity, but whether [the crime] was committed in my house or not will be presented.”
DeVito said he knew the police weren’t going to find what they were looking for Sept. 23.
But he said his position that night was to stay calm. He said he cooperated with police as much as possible.
“They were looking for guns, money and fruits of the crime,” DeVito said, adding that none of the above were found at his residence.
Even still, the cooperation of he and his fraternity brothers did not keep them from being punished by the university. With its suspension, the fraternity is not allowed to hold events on campus. All reservations
under the fraternity’s name have been canceled.
“We’ll accept any punishment,” DeVito said.
“I feel like what we’ve gone through to date has been reasonable, [and] just.”In the aftermath, those living at the TKE house have been forced to find other living arrangements.
DeVito and his roommate recently moved into the Kardon Building located at the 1801 N. 10th St.Meanwhile, the house at 1846 N. 16th St., which sits three doors down from Faith Tabernacle Church, is abandoned.
Trash bags filled with plastic cups and Yuengling beer bottles line the fraternity’s backyard. Broken glass fragments are scattered about the gravel. A pepperoni pizza slice lay haplessly, crusting away with mold near a wire fence.
TKE brothers have rented the 16th Street property for the last three years. The fraternity brothers might have enjoyed their stay there, but neighbors did not.
Lamona Strong, 19, lives at the 1800 block of Willington Street, where her home overlooks the backyard and rear of the TKE house.
The mother of a 1-year-old son, Strong describes her neighbors’ behavior
as “loud” and “ridiculous.”
“Around the corner, they’d party all day, all night if they didn’t have school,” Strong said. “It was ridiculous; it was really ridiculous. Especially when spring break was here. I couldn’t get no sleep. All I could hear was a DJ. They had a DJ with big speakers out there and everything.”
But that’s not all.Strong said she also witnessed marijuana use, public consumption of alcohol and nudity.
“[I saw] a lot of alcohol in the public. You’re not supposed to come out of your house with beer and I saw a lot of that,” she continued. “There’s a lot of cursing. There’s nudity. They’re all getting naked. The girls were getting naked. This was, like, at spring break.”
DeVito refuted those claims.
Regardless of TKE’s reputation in its neighborhood, Temple University Greek Association President Matt Raisman remained firm in his stance on the organization’s standing with TUGA, the governing body for all registered Greek organizations on Main Campus.
“I’m not really sure what the situation is,” Raisman said. “I just know that I’ve heard a few things, some speculation, some hearsay. My personal relations with TKE have always been positive ones. That’s all I know. And everything is alleged. I don’t know all the details, so … I can’t really say. Every chapter has their own things they’re involved with,” Raisman continued. “With TUGA, our role is to bring together everyone. … We’re there to govern the Greek body. After our meetings, our role is not so much with each individual chapter.”
But for now, DeVito maintains his chapter’s
innocence.”I want to be a role model, not a martyr,” DeVito said. ” … We will move on and do what is asked of us in the way that [UDC officials] want to do it. We will abide by what they say and that’s about it.”
Charmie R. Snetter and Christopher A. Vito can be reached at TempleNews@gmail.com.