Fraternity agrees to fines, community service, in turkey abuse case

The Kansas University chapter of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity has agreed to settle last year’s turkey abuse case through fines and community service, according to a statement today from Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson.

Months after witnesses told police that a turkey was abused and killed at a party at the fraternity’s house at 1425 Tennessee St., the district attorney’s office completed its review of the case and reached a settlement with the fraternity.

“After an exhaustive investigation we believe there is evidence to suggest the turkey was mistreated,” Branson wrote in a news release today. “However, our review of the evidence revealed conflicting accounts given by various witnesses, making it difficult to determine exactly who was responsible for the improper treatment of the bird.”

The investigation showed that accounts of the incident that had been given by some witnesses to the media were not the same as accounts given to law enforcement investigators. According to police in December, witnesses said the turkey had been “poked by individuals through the cage and heckled during the evening.” The turkey also was “chased and abused by several individuals present at the party, seriously injuring the animal.” Someone then killed the turkey, and police were called.

Reports of the incident deeply angered animal lovers around the country.

In December, the national chapter of Beta Theta Pi announced that the KU chapter and its activities were suspended indefinitely, pending an investigation.

At KU, the national organization, as well as the KU Interfraternity Council, are responsible for investigating such cases and taking action.

The law enforcement investigation revealed several fraternity officers were present at the Turkey Pull when the mistreatment occurred, according to the district attorney’s office. In order to settle the case, Beta Theta Pi agreed to complete 1,000 hours of community service. Any other community service work that the fraternity would normally complete during the academic year will not count toward that figure.

Beta Theta Pi also agreed to pay the city of Lawrence $5,000 toward the cost of the police department’s investigation.

And after the investigation, the District Attorney’s Office delayed acting on it until school resumed in August. “Although it has taken an unusual amount of time to resolve this matter I felt it was important to announce the resolution of this case after school had started and students had returned,” Branson said. “I hope other organizations holding functions will take notice of this and police their functions accordingly.”