State v. Zeta Chi Fraternity

The Facts

Zeta Chi Frat was charged with selling alcohol to persons under age and prostitution.  Defendant held rush at its fraternity house and hired strippers in order to attract new members.  Stripper took guest to open mattress and pushed his head into her crotch.  Witnesses testified at trial that guests were led to the mattress after they gave money and guests performed oral sex on strippers.  Beer was also allegedly sold through a vending machine.  Fraternity was said to supply dollar bills for both strippers and beer machine.  Fraternity claimed at trial that the fraternity did not permit underage drinking from the vending machine and had voted on such a rule in chapter.  The fraternity is a defendant corporation.  Defendant fraternity is charged with, among other things, acting recklessly.

Procedural History

Convicted in superior court, upheld on appeal.

Rule

A defendant corporation can be convicted for actions of its agents even if it specifically tells its agents not to engage in criminal activity; however, its agents must have been acting within the scope of their given authority.

The Issue

Can defendant corporation be convicted for acting recklessly with mens rea as a necessary element?

The Holding

Judgment affirmed.

Court’s Reasoning

Yes.  When the defendant is a corporation its collective knowledge of its employees is given consideration as to the mens rea element of reckless behavior.  The party held approximately 150 guests and was widely publicized on campus.  The defendant corporation had exclusive control over the vending machine and its proceeds; and evidence demonstrates that the main guests to the party were under the age of 21 and defendant corporation was aware of such.  Moreover, evidence demonstrates defendant corporation’s agents were providing guests with dollar bills for the purpose of engaging strippers and using the alcoholic vending machine.

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