A 20-year-old student at Central Michigan University (CMU) is being charged with hazing after he smeared peanut butter on the face of a student who has severe allergies.
After a warrant was issued for his arrest, 20-year-old Dale Merza, a sophomore at CMU, turned himself in to the local police, The New York Times reports. He was charged with "hazing" (imposing embarrassing or even dangerous tasks upon another person under the guise of training or initiation to a group) but pleaded not guilty in court on Friday.
The charge follows an October 2016 incident in which then-19-year-old Andrew Seeley passed out at an off-campus fraternity party. While Seeley (who has a severe peanut allergy) was unconscious, Merza allegedly smeared his face with peanut butter — which caused Seeley's eyes, nose, and lips to swell up. Once he came to, the teen sought medical treatment for his allergic reaction at an on-campus clinic.
Seeley has since transferred to an unnamed school, CBS News reports. But the incident has affected him greatly, according to his mother, Teresa Seeley, who took to Facebook last month to share a photo of her son from the night of the incident.
"We found out that our son was a victim of a hazing incident," she wrote. "He could have been killed."
Seeley's mother told CBS News that her son rushed Alpha Chi Rho, the fraternity that held the party where the incident occurred, when he first arrived at CMU in the fall. He accepted a bid several weeks before the party — but Alpha Chi Rho was officially disbanded at the school in 2011, according to Heather Smith, the Director of Communications at CMU.
"[They are] not a recognized fraternity at CMU," Smith told CBS News. "They were removed from campus in 2011 for hazing."
Now that the Seeleys are moving forward with the case, Merza's lawyer, Bruce Leach, is claiming that no one at the October 2016 party was aware that Seeley had a peanut allergy. "It was a big misunderstanding that has been blown out of proportion," he told the Times.
If convicted, Merza could face a fine of $1,000 and spend up to 93 days in jail.
[h/t The New York Times]