Category Archives: Press Releases

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Freiwald Responds to Order regarding Change of Venue

Judge New’s ruling means Plaintiff is not being forced to try his case in the backyard of Penn State.  That said, we are confident that the story Mr. Vivenzio will tell, about outrageous conduct inside a Penn State fraternity, with hazing and violence and sexual misconduct, will be just as compelling in Harrisburg as it would have been in Philadelphia.


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Penn State Hazing Whistleblower Case Update: Statement of Attorney Aaron J. Freiwald Following Frat House Inspection

State College, PA (August 26, 2015) – Attorney for Penn State Hazing Whistleblower James Vivenzio issued the following statement following the premises inspection of the Kappa Delta Rho fraternity today., Mr. Freiwald’s firm, Freiwald Law, P.C.,  represents the former fraternity member in his personal injury complaint (Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, April Term, 2015 No. 001671) against the fraternity and Penn State University.

“As part of pre-trial discovery, today’s inspection was important in providing James Vivenzio the opportunity to show first hand specific locations where he was violently and illegally hazed at the hands of his former fraternity brothers. We look forward to the day when the information obtained today, as well as all the facts in this case, can be presented to a jury. Mr. Vivenzio and his parents showed great courage and are steadfastly committed to not only this case, but through www.endhazingnow.com, preventing hazing and sexual assaults in all forms at Penn State and other college and university campuses.”

 

For more information:

ajf@freiwaldlaw.com

215.875.8000

267.432.1016 (m)

steph@idadvisors.com

215.514.4101


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Penn State Hazing Whistleblower Case Update: Kappa Delta Rho Fraternity Inspection Noon, Wednesday, August 26th

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State College, PA (August 24, 2015) – Penn State Hazing Whistleblower James Vivenzio will participate in the premises inspection of the Kappa Delta Rho fraternity house at noon, Wednesday, August 26, 2015, according to Freiwald Law, P.C., which represents the former fraternity member and moving force behind the hazing prevention and campus safety advocacy website www.endhazingnow.com.

Aaron J. Freiwald, Mr. Vivenzio’s lead attorney in the civil action (Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, April Term, 2015 No. 001671) said that attorneys for the defendants will also be present as his client conducts a videotaped walk through of certain areas, starting in the basement, of the building located at 420 E. Prospect Ave., State College. He explained that lawyers for Zeta Alumni of Kappa Delta Rho, a group of KDR alumni that own the building, limited the scope of the inspection to the basement and first-floor common rooms. They also rejected requests to allow members of the news media to cover the inspection.

“We will have an opportunity to view first-hand, with Mr. Vivenzio present, the exact locations where he was brutally hazed over a period of months,” Mr. Freiwald said. “It was imperative that the inspection take place this week, we were told, as the KDR alumni owners are leasing the property to another fraternity at Penn State.”

Since the Defendant has refused to permit members of the media inside the fraternity house, Mr. Freiwald said he and Mr. Vivenzio expect to be available to media representatives following the inspection at approximately 1 p.m.

 

For more information:

ajfreiwald@freiwaldlaw.com

215.875.8000

267.432.1016 (m)

steph@idadvisors.com

215.514.4101


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Penn State Whistleblower Urges Increased Prevention Education To End Campus Hazing and Sexual Assault Now

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James Vivenzio

James Vivenzio

Facebook Profile

Read Personal Statement of James Vivenzio

Philadelphia, PA (August 20, 2015) – James Vivenzio, the Penn State fraternity hazing victim turned whistleblower, today added an online petition to his www.endhazingnow.com website to urge colleges and universities to increase prevention education and strengthen sanctions to help stop the often life-threatening criminal behavior that for too long has been minimized or dismissed as harmless pranks by playful college students.

In the petition, also posted onto www.change.org and www.ipetitions.com, Mr. Vivenzio urges colleges and universities to do much more to “prevent and end what has become increasingly more violent and demeaning behavior in the name of good clean fun.” The petition, accompanied by a personal narrative about his own experiences as a hazing victim, urges schools to “commit meaningful annual resources for mandatory anti-hazing and anti-sexual violence training and awareness programs on campus. It also calls for the establishment of an “independent, truly confidential hotline so that incidents of hazing and sexual violence can be reported to university officials and law enforcement.”

The petition is launched as students are preparing for the start of a new school year and as National Hazing Prevention week approaches.

“We are excited and grateful for the support of James Vivenzio and his family in encouraging people to join the hazing prevention movement and share their story, through our These Hands Don’t Haze Mosaic project.” said Emily N. Pualwan, Executive Director of HazingPrevention.Org. “ Awareness of hazing’s dangers is always the first step in empowering people to stand up and make a change to end this dangerous and harmful practice.” Her organization sponsors the annual National Hazing Prevention Week, which starts September 21.

Mr. Vivenzio recalled in the petition posting that when he rushed Kappa Delta Rho fraternity at Penn State he and the others in his pledge class were “repeatedly assured there was a strict, zero tolerance no-hazing policy.” However, he added, “I learned the hard way, in a very painful way, physically and psychologically, that KDR did not live by the motto over the front door of the house, “Honor Above All.” He has characterized his physical and mental abuse as having occurred in a “house of horrors”.

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For more information:

www.Endhazingnow.com

steph@idadvisors.com

www.Hazingprevention.org

epualwan@hazingprevention.org

Note: In an earlier version, reference was made to the Clery Center for Security on Campus (www.clerycenter.org). That organization is in no way affiliated with End Hazing Now or its petition campaign.


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Penn State Whistleblower Urges Increased Prevention Education To End Campus Hazing and Sexual Assault Now

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James Vivenzio

James Vivenzio

Facebook Profile

Read Personal Statement of James Vivenzio

 

 

 

 

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Philadelphia, PA (August 20, 2015) – James Vivenzio, the Penn State fraternity hazing victim turned whistleblower, today added an online petition to his www.endhazingnow.com website to urge colleges and universities to increase prevention education and strengthen sanctions to help stop the often life-threatening criminal behavior that for too long has been minimized or dismissed as harmless pranks by playful college students.

In the petition, also posted onto www.change.org and www.ipetitions.com, Mr. Vivenzio urges colleges and universities to do much more to “prevent and end what has become increasingly more violent and demeaning behavior in the name of good clean fun.” The petition, accompanied by a personal narrative about his own experiences as a hazing victim, urges schools to “commit meaningful annual resources for mandatory anti-hazing and anti-sexual violence training and awareness programs on campus. It also calls for the establishment of an “independent, truly confidential hotline so that incidents of hazing and sexual violence can be reported to university officials and law enforcement.”

The petition is launched as students are preparing for the start of a new school year, and in conjunction with numerous highly effective advocacy groups such HazingPrevention.Org to stop hazing and sexual assault in all forms at all levels in America’s schools.

“We are excited and grateful for the support of James Vivenzio and his family in encouraging people to join the hazing prevention movement and share their story, through our These Hands Don’t Haze Mosaic project.” said Emily N Pualwan, Executive Director of HazingPrevention.Org. “ Awareness of hazing’s dangers is always the first step in empowering people to stand up and make a change to end this dangerous and harmful practice.” Her organization sponsors the annual National Hazing Prevention Week, which starts September 21.

Mr. Vivenzio recalled in the petition posting that when he rushed Kappa Delta Rho fraternity at Penn State he and the others in his pledge class were “repeatedly assured there was a strict, zero tolerance no-hazing policy.” However, he added, “I learned the hard way, in a very painful way, physically and psychologically, that KDR did not live by the motto over the front door of the house, “Honor Above All.” He has characterized his physical and mental abuse as having occurred in a “house of horrors”.

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For more information:

www.Endhazingnow.com

steph@idadvisors.com

www.Hazingprevention.org

epualwan@hazingprevention.org


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Statement of Attorney Aaron Freiwald

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Statement of Attorney Aaron Freiwald

August 12, 2015

The following statement is issued in response to media inquiries regarding the filing of a defense motion for a protective order in the case of James Vivenzio vs. Pennsylvania State University, Kappa Delta Rho, et. al. (Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, April Term 2015 No.150401671)

On behalf of Mr Vivenzio, and all victims of hazing and campus sexual violence, we will vigorously oppose the effort to suppress non-confidential information that is or should be publicly available.  Penn State and KDR should have nothing to hide when it comes to the facts.  Mr. Vivenzio is committed to having www.endhazingnow.com, serve as a freely accessible website for public information and educational materials about this case and other cases and incidents involving hazing and sexual violence on campus.

 


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Forensic Inspection of Kappa Delta Rho Fraternity House Among Several Initial Pre-Trial Filings by Lawyers for Penn State Hazing Victim and Whistleblower

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Download July 8, 2015 Press Release

PHILADELPHIA, PA (July 8, 2015) – Lawyers for Penn State hazing victim and whistleblower James Vivenzio plan to conduct a basement-to-attic inspection of the Kappa Delta Rho Zeta Chapter fraternity house, which has been identified in Mr. Vivenzio’s lawsuit as the site of rampant, illegal, violent hazing activities. According to pre-trial discovery documents served on the defendants by Freiwald Law, P.C., the inspection of the KDR frat house at 420 E. Prospect Ave., State College, will begin at 10 a.m., Thursday, September 10th. The house is near the University Park main campus.

Aaron J. Freiwald, Esq., Mr. Vivenzio’s lead attorney, said the site inspection is an important part of the pre-trial fact-finding process. “We will appropriately and methodically inspect the premises, with Mr. Vivenzio and a forensic team in attendance, to document the various areas in the house where he and other pledges were subjected to cruel and violent hazing.”

In addition to the KDR house inspection, Mr. Freiwald’s firm’s discovery-related filings (which can be obtained at www.endhazingnow.com) arising out of the Complaint [April Term, 2015 No. 001671 – Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas] included:

  • Scheduling at 10a.m., August 20th the videotaped deposition of Penn State Office of Student Affairs official Daniel Shaha, the University’s Senior Investigator with regards to the KDR-Vivenzio hazing investigation, sexual assaults at KDR, and events leading up to Penn State’s sanctions against the fraternity and the KDR National’s expulsion on June 8 (the same day Mr. Vivenzio’s complaint was filed) of 38 KDR Zeta Chapter members for hazing violations.
  • Requesting from the University numerous hazing investigation-related information and documents, including all records pertaining to the allegedly confidential ‘hazing hotline’ staffing and administration. It is alleged that Mr. Vivenzio’s initial complaint to the hotline – which he believed was confidential – was leaked to the fraternity, jeopardizing his safety.
  • Scheduling at 10 a.m., August 19th, the deposition of an official of Kappa Delta Rho’s national organization, which oversees the operations of all its chapters.
  • Notifying Defendants of the intent to serve subpoenas to the State College Police Department and the Centre County District Attorney’s Office for relevant investigative documents. Mr. Vivenzio went to the local police after it became clear the University was not going to take any action against KDR and he feared for the safety of others, including pledges and women visitors to the house.

Under the Pennsylvania’s rules of practice, Defendants have 30 days to provide documents and materials in response to the various discovery requests.

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Contacts:

Aaron J. Freiwald

ajf@freiwaldlaw.com

(w) 215.875.8000

(c)  267.432.1016

Steph Rosenfeld

215.514.4101

steph@idadvisors.com


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June 8, 2015 Statement of Attorney Aaron Freiwald

STATEMENT OF ATTORNEY AARON FREIWALD

June 8, 2015 / 3:15 p.m.

Penn State’s dismissive and demeaning statement is false and misleading in an attempt to conceal and blur the truth, and compounds the suffering of James Vivenzio.  In April 2014, at a meeting lasting several hours in the family’s home, Danny Shaha, the University’s chief investigator, was shown dozens and dozens of pages of of documentation, including photos from the Facebook 2.0 page, supporting the claims in the complaint filed today.  The family also pledged full cooperation with any university investigation.  The subject of filing an internal complaint about the hazing abuses with the University never came up. In addition, James and his family have always been cooperative with State College Police, who he went to after eight months and after losing confidence in the University to pursue his claims. We look forward to presenting all of the evidence in this case to a jury.


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Penn State Fraternity Pledge – Whistleblower Files Complaint Aimed At Halting Hazing Violence at PSU-Kappa Delta Rho (KDR) and Elsewhere – Lawsuit Details The “House of Honor” That Was Actually A “House of Horrors

Press Release:  Philadelphia, PA (June 8, 2015) – They are called ‘brothers’, but the ongoing and unabated physical violence, psychological intimidation, drug dealing, and sexual exploitation by members of Penn State’s Kappa Delta Rho (KDR) chapter were anything but victimless or brotherly. Those alarming allegations are contained in a complaint filed today against the fraternity, its national organization, and the University on behalf of the victimized pledge who first alerted PSU – and then after it failed to act – police about the outrageous conduct that was promoted on the fraternity’s private Facebook page.

Philadelphia-based trial attorney Aaron J. Freiwald, of Freiwald Law, P.C., represents 21-year-old James Vivenzio, the former KDR pledge and hazing victim. He announced the filing (Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, April Term, 2015 No. 001671] today and joined Mr. Vivenzio in thanking supporters that have rallied to support him and his efforts to eliminate sexual violence on campuses. In that regard, Mr. Vivenzio and his legal team have launched www.endhazingnow.com, a website devoted to his case and the broader campaign to end hazing violence.

“Mr. Vivenzio blew the whistle on KDR because he feared that what happened to him and other pledges – from being burned with cigarettes, branded with clothes hangers, and poisoned with alcohol – would continue until something catastrophic occurred, possibly a death,” explained Mr. Freiwald. “He realizes that the justice system – not the University based on its abandonment of him – is the best hope for ensuring that what happened to him and the other victims cannot reoccur on the Penn State campus.”

Mr. Freiwald noted the hypocrisy of the fraternity that failed to protect Mr. Vivenizo and others. “KDR’s motto, touted above its entrance, is ‘Honor Above All’, but now we know it was in reality a house of horrors.”

According to the complaint, the defendant fraternity members and its affiliates were responsible for, among other abuses:

  • Inflicting, in James’ case, physical abuse that included cigarette burns to the arm and blows about the face. Other members of his pledge class of 19 freshmen were branded with hot clothes hangars. Hazing, which lasted more than two months, was 24/7 during “Hell Week”. In every instance, there is photographic documentation of hazing that was provided to the authorities.
  • Forcing Mr. Vivenzio and other pledges – who were all underage at the time – to drink during the regular “Line ups” in the basement bucketfuls of alcohol mixed with urine, hot sauce, and other mystery ingredients until the point of vomiting. Alumni also participated in “alcohol hazing,” forcing pledges to guzzle hard liquor until vomiting was induced.
  • The production and distribution over the internet of the so-called Facebook 2.0 “Covert Business Transactions” page – distributed to more than 140 KDR members, including alumni – that depicted drug dealing and, without consent, nude, or partially clothed, inebriated and/or passed out female and male visitors to the fraternity.

For its role, the University, including its organizations entrusted with overseeing fraternities, was responsible for failing to:

  • Enforce its own widely publicized anti-hazing policies and procedures. Mr. Vivenzio recalled being told at the earliest stages of pledging that the fraternity abided by the zero tolerance, no-hazing rules. He quickly learned that was hardly the case. He asserted that information about his initial email to PSU’s anonymous hazing hotline to report the misconduct was quickly transmitted back to KDR, betraying his trust and placing him in physical danger.
  • Supervise the operations of KDR that had a long history of rule breaking leading to sanctions, including criminal charges, liquor violations, and suspension (prior to the suspension imposed following Mr.Vivenzio’s whistle blowing).
  • Act in a serious and timely fashion following Mr. Vivenzio’s disclosures, and in a manner to safeguard him from further violence and intimidation. About eight months before he disclosed KDR’s secret Facebook page to police, he met with a Danny Shaha, then senior investigator from the PSU Office of Student Conduct at his family home in Virginia and shared print outs of group text messages and photos from the site that provided clear evidence of the unlawful and dangerous hazing activities at KDR and repeated acts of sexual harassment and abuse at the fraternity. He also told the investigator that he had evidence relating to sexual assault at KDR and could provide access to both the group text messages and the Facebook site. This was the same Facebook site that he would later share with State College police prompting its criminal investigation.

According to the complaint, “Penn State recklessly and unconscionably sat on the information Whistleblower Vivenzio had first brought the Penn State’s attention, causing further harm to Mr. Vivenzio and to untold numbers of students whose injuries and damages from hazing and sexual misconduct could have been prevented had Penn State acted quickly, responsibly and decisively.”

Mr. Freiwald noted that the complaint contains a demand for a jury trial and requests punitive damages as well as compensatory damages. “A jury should ultimately decide the proper punishment for the harm inflicted upon Mr. Vivenzio, and send a message that enough is enough,” he said.

Click Here to Download .pdf

 

 


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STATEMENT OF JAMES VIVENZIO REGARDING PENN STATE THREE-YEAR SUSPENSION OF KAPPA DELTA RHO

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Philadelphia, PA (May 28, 2015) – The following authorized statement of James Vivenzio is being issued by his attorney, Aaron J. Freiwald, Freiwald Law, P.C., on behalf of Mr. Vivenzio in response to media inquiries:

I am pleased that Penn State is finally taking seriously the documented allegations of hazing and other misconduct at KDR that I first brought to the attention of University officials and then to the attention of the local

police. Suspending KDR now is only a small step toward what needs to be done to stop the blatantly abusive practices at KDR that I experienced first hand, and at other fraternities. I am committed as one individual, who has been supported by many others, to bringing about positive and permanent change to eliminate hazing and sexual harassment. Penn State can and must do much more to stop hazing and sexual harassment and should commit to lead by example.

Mr. Vivenzio has no further comment on this matter at this time.

Contact: Aaron J. Freiwald, Esq. / Freiwald Law, P.C.

ajf@freiwaldlaw.com 215.875.8000 267.432.1016


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